Thursday, December 13, 2007

Debut Author of the Month: S.A. Harazin...

S.A Harazin spent years working in hospitals--and years writing--before finding an agent and a publisher for her debut novel Blood Brothers, a July 2007 release from Delacorte (with whom she has a two-book contract). Here Harazin talks about her book and her path to publication.

Tell my readers and me a little about your debut novel, Blood Brothers, and Clay, your main character.

Clay is an orderly at a hospital where mopping floors and facing life or death situations is normal for him. He dreams of becoming a doctor, but he does not have the money or good grades. His childhood friend, Joey, has it all—good grades, money, supportive parents, and plans to attend to Duke University.

One evening Clay goes to Joey’s house and finds him confused and combative. Clay acts in self defense and then has to call 911 for help. Joey ends up in the hospital on life support. Over the course of a few days, Clay faces suspicion, betrayal, and lies as he tries to uncover what happened to Joey before he arrived.

Before you got your first book contract, you had been writing for more than a decade. Had you submitted novels to editors or agents before Blood Brothers?

Yes, I have another novel I submitted three or four times before I wrote Blood Brothers. I’d get revision suggestions, and I would revise. But I really did not know how to revise. That manuscript is now in a drawer.

You definitely subscribe to the philosophy of “write what you know.” During the time you worked in hospitals, did you ever envision the experience flavoring YA novels?

Never. I’ve always been a writer, but I never considered submitting anything for publication until about ten years ago. I was writing short stories at that time and attending a writer’s group at a bookstore for fun. One day I was reading a short story and a group of teens came over and started listening. One of the teens—a male—complimented the story and asked if I had anything published. He said the “voice” of the short story sounded like him, and he knew exactly how the character in the story felt. Then I decided to submit the story to a lit magazine. The editor wrote back that I should be writing for children. That’s when I started reading young adult books and writing for teens.

Please tell me about your path to publication. How did you find your agent?

I’d been writing, reading, and learning the craft for several years before I submitted my first novel attempt. In 1999 I wrote the first draft of Blood Brothers and over the next few years submitted it to four agents. The third agent gave me some suggestions but did not ask to see a revision. The fourth agent said yes. I had found him by networking with other writers.

You’ve said that your agent asked for some revisions and you did a major revision of Blood Brothers with your editor. Is this what you expected? How did you feel about the whole editorial process? Any surprises.

I did expect to do a major revision because other authors I knew would have to do major editorial revisions. The process was intense. I had to do a rewrite in six weeks, and I am a slow writer. I learned that I could write fast when I had to, but I also had my editor (Joe Cooper who is no longer at Delacorte) to give me advice. Surprisingly (to me at least) he asked for more flashbacks with a tone change. I enjoyed writing those less intense scenes most of all. My agent Steven Chudney had not read the rewrite until he received an ARC. He said it was the same book but it was also a different book. I was amazed at the difference that editorial input made. I think it took the book to a whole new level. There were others at Delacorte—including my new editor, Claudia Gabel—who played a significant part in the process.

Your book has been out for a few months. How does it feel reading reviews?

I generally won’t read a review unless my editor or a reviewer emails me. The book is published, I wrote it from my heart, and I wrote what I was passionate about. I feel like I’ve done all I could do at that time in my life to write a good book.

What have you done to promote Blood Brothers? How has your involvement in the Class of 2k7 helped you?

I did the usual things. I set up a web page and a blog, and I joined MySpace. I’ve contacted local bookstores, and I asked to participate in a SIBA conference which turned out to be a great experience. I am normally shy, but the Class of 2K7 helped me move out of my comfort zone and gave me the support I needed to promote. I’ve made friends, read great books I would have otherwise missed, and shared the ups and downs.

Do you think all new authors should have websites? What else should debut authors do to promote their work?

An author should have a professional looking website, and I think this should be the priority in promotion.

Other ways to promote:

  • Check out book fairs and conferences and get things started early if you want to participate. Be aware that most are planned many months in advance.
  • Visit your local bookstores after your book is out and introduce yourself. Offer to sign stock.
  • Set up a MySpace page. This is a great way to network. I actually get more book-related email from MySpace “friends” than I do from my website.
  • Start a blog.
  • Bookmarks are nice to have for school or library visits. Postcards and brochures—for me at least—are not all that effective except for mailing locally to let schools or libraries know you are available for visits. I think bookstores toss them into the trash.
  • Do not obsess. A writer can spend every hour of the day promoting and still feel like it isn’t enough. I try to balance promotion with writing—I am a writer. That is what I do best. I want to write, and that is the most important thing to me.
You said, “I feel like I’ve been stuck between 14 and 19 years old,” and you have three teenage kids. As an author, what appeals to you about teenage-hood?

I find teens interesting and amazing. The teenage years are filled with so much emotion, conflict, and change it’s hard not to be intrigued.

You used your initials rather than your first name (in great company with S.E. Hinton, J.K. Rowling, E.L. Konigsburg, K.L. Going…) Is that something your publisher encouraged you do to as a female author writing male characters? Any particular reason you chose a male main character?

I have author friends who were asked to use their initials, and I could see why it might be a good idea. I made the decision to use my initials.

I didn’t actually choose a male main character. When I first heard his voice and then visualized him, he was male.

Tell me about your second novel, Painless. When will it be released?

Painless (which is the working title) is about a boy with a hereditary disease who is trying to beat the odds and survive. After moving to a colder climate—something he needs to improve the quality of his life—he meets a girl.

My editor mentioned something about 2009—but she has not seen a draft yet. I have not shown this draft to anyone. It’s not where I want it to be yet. I want to write a better book and grow as a writer. For me, it’s all about the writing and the story.

What was it like for you getting a contract for a book you hadn’t yet written? Was that at all scary?

I was thrilled and surprised to get a blank contract, and I will admit, I thought I heard my agent wrong when he called.

I have moments when I experience fear. I think it goes with the territory. But passion and determination squash the fear.

What advice would you give unpublished writers working on YA novels?

Read hundreds of books. Write and rewrite. Take time to learn the craft. Develop grit. Grit is the ability to persist with passion. Experts speak of the 10-year rule—it takes a decade of hard work to become successful in most endeavors. The ability to persist in the face of obstacles is important in major achievements.

And new authors?

If you’re a new author, turn off your Google alerts and don’t Google your name or check your Amazon rankings endlessly. (I think checking once in a while is OK.) Focus on writing a fabulous book. Enjoy the journey.

MIA Blogger...

Have you missed me? Thanks to all of you who have visited by blog despite the fact that this is my first blog post in December. (Office craziness. Use-it-or-lose-it vacation days. 2009 CWIM in full swing.) The rest of the month I'll continue to be fairly quiet--I've only got a few more days in the office this year. (I'll be home busy getting things ready for Santa-obsessed Murray, who writes the jolly gift-giver a scribbly crayon letter pretty much daily.)

I'll soon be posting an interview with December's Debut Author of the Month, however, so stop back later today or tomorrow.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

WSJ on Kindle and Reading...

If you've visited at all lately, I'm sure you've noticed that they're really pushing Kindle, "Amazon's revolutionary wireless reading devise." (It's $399 with free 2-day shipping by the way.)

Yesterday The Wall Street Journal's columnist Daniel Henninger wrote an op ed piece on Kindle and reading. Scary/sort of surprising fact from the article: "The average 15- to 24-year-old spends seven minutes daily on 'voluntary' reading. " Wow. Seven? Are they voluntarily reading the backs of cereal boxes during breakfast? (It's ten minutes on weekends. A chapter of something?)

I wonder how much time I actually spend on "voluntary" reading. Maybe I should do a journal for a week or two and see. And I guess it depends on how one defines reading (which Henninger's piece discusses). What counts? Books of course. But what about newspapers, magazines and blogs? Is it odd that we need to have a discussion about what constitutes reading?

How much do you read on a daily basis? And would you read from a hand-held electronic devise over a printed book or a magazine? (I didn't think so. Neither would I.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

SCBWI Winter Conference Registration Is Open (Sigh)...

I just received the brochure for SCBWI's 9th Annual Winter Conference on Writing & Illustrating for Children held in NYC February 8-10, 2008. Why the Sigh, you say? Because I'm not going--it's not in my travel budget. (Everyone keep your fingers crossed that my budget is approved for the August LA event. I want to be there and be blogging.)

I know New York in February is generally not all that pleasant. But somehow attending the Winter Conference warms one up! This year's event includes keynotes addresses by Nikki Grimes, Carolyn Mackler, Susan Patron (of Newbery/ "scrotum" fame), Richard Peck and David Wiesner. There are also breakouts with editors the likes of David Gale (S&S), Jennifer Hunt (Little, Brown) and Mark McVeigh (Aladdin). And they offer pre-conference extensives for both illustrators and writers. Lot and lots of children's publishing industry-related fun! (That I will miss.)

SCBWI, if you're reading this and you want to let me come for free, I wouldn't turn you down. And I'd bring lots and lots of door prizes!

I hope lots of you can go and tell me all about it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Vintage Children's Book Illustration Slide Show...

My co-worker Rachel (editor of Novel & Short Story Writer's Market) sent me a link to an interesting and wonderful little slide show on Slate featuring illustrations from the late-1800s up through the mid-20th century (including a Maurice Sendak illustration for The Hobbit). (You have to watch an ad if you're not a Slate subscriber, but it's kind of amusing.)

The illustrations featured (and I think the copy on the history of children's books as well) were culled from Timothy G. Young's Drawn to Enchant. The art in Young's book is from the collection of Betsy Beinecke Shirley. She left her extensive collection of books, original illustrations, manuscripts, and ephemera to the Library of Yale University. Young is the curator of the Betsy Beinecke Shirley Collection of American Children’s Literature.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

National Book Award and Other Stuff...

  • The National Book Awards were recently given and Sherman Alexie won in the Young People's Literature category for his first foray into YA, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. (Little, Brown). This is cool. I like Sherman Alexie and have read a number of his books for adults. I was keeping my fingers crossed for Kathleen Duey, though, and I'm bummed she didn't win for A Resurrection of Magic: Skin Hunger. But it's cool that her book gets a silver finalist sticker and I'm showing her cover in this post and not Alexie's. (I hope you found the right shoes for the ceremony, Kathleen. Zappos seldom does me wrong.)
  • The New York Times Book Review recently published a special section on children's books (which features a review of Alexie's aforementioned award-winner). You can find it here. Be sure to click on The Best Illustrated Books of 2007 for a wonderful slideshow.
  • I can't stop watching Gossip Girl. Oh I love that Chuck Bass. Anyone else think he's Logan Huntsberger with a healthy dose of 1980s James Spader?
  • I've been light on the blogging lately--busy, busy pre-holiday stuff. And I'm off work all next week, eating pumpkin pie and whatnot, so my blog will be pretty quiet. After the holiday, I'll be back with more updates to listings in the 2008 CWIM. Stay tuned!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Halloween Continues at My House...

My son got a package in the mail yesterday--a copy of Frankie Stein, a wonderfully fun and monster-y picture book by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Kevan Atteberry--who was the sender of this tardy Halloween treat.

After Murray and I opened the package, we sat on the floor of his room to read it but never did make it through all the text because my little monster lover was fascinated with the illustrations. (He digs the ghost and rat that appear page after page observing the antics of cute little Frankie Stein's parents as they try to make Frankie a little more monstrous.)

This is a great book to add to your sorta spooky picture book collection. And this is my public shout out to my pal Kevan--thanks for the book!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

2008 CWIM Updates...

If you subscribe to my monthly CWIM e-newsletter, you know I've just begun contacting publishers, publications, agents, etc. to gather updated information for the 2009 edition of CWIM. My November newsletter, which mailed on Monday, featured a number of book publisher updates. (If you didn't get it, email me a and I'll forward you a copy. You can subscribe at Just don't read the copy on the site when you go there--I haven't gotten around to updating it from the 2007 CWIM. Just stick to the newsletter sign-up box on the upper right.)

Now I'll give you a some magazine updates I've gotten over the past few days. Get out your 2008 CWIM and a red pen. Here we go:

I'll keep sharing updates as they come in as long as you promise it won't keep you from buying the 2009 CWIM. (It's gonna be good.)

Monday, November 05, 2007

2008 CWIM Excerpt: Candie Moonshower on Dealing with Rejection...

[description] In the 2008 CWIM, author Candie Moonshower (The Legend of Zoey) offers 10 (giant but essential) steps for writing and publishing your first novel. Here's her advice on handling an important step every writer must take: learning to handle rejection.

Part and parcel of the writing biz are the rejections. You will get them. In fact, you need to get them! Because after you've received a few rejections, it dawns on you that rejections aren't personal.

Instead of looking at rejections as overwhelming obstacles, try to view them as part of your development as a professional writer. New writers aren't the only ones who receive rejections. Published authors submit manuscripts that garner rejections, too. If you never submit out of fear of rejection, you'll never allow an editor the opportunity to call you with an offer!

Learn to deal with rejections by:

  • Not submitting manuscripts too early. Like fine wine, your manuscript isn't ready until it has been written, rewritten, critiqued, revised and polished. When you send in work that isn't ready for an editorial look-see, you're cheating yourself by knocking that editor off your list of possibilities.
  • Replacing worry with work. My mother always says that it's hard to worry when you're scrubbing a floor. I find it hard to worry about rejections when I have another manuscript ready to send out the door.
  • Starting on a new project as soon as your manuscript has left the building (again, you're replacing worry with work). Always have a new, exciting project going that will take your mind off your mailbox.
  • Never whining, ranting or crying about rejections except to your most trusted writing friends and, perhaps, your spouse. You, especially, never want to complain about rejections to those agents or editors who, potentially, might have one of your manuscripts in their hands someday.

For Moonshower's complete article, see the 2008 CWIM (page 25).

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Debut Author of the Month: Crissa-Jean Chappell...

YA novelist Crissa-Jean Chappell's debut Total Constant Order, which was just released from HarperCollins, focuses on Fin, a teen who's got a lot to deal with. She's recently relocated to Florida, started at a new school, and her parents split up. And all these things put Fin's OCD in overdrive.

Chappell, who grew up in Miami, holds an MFA in screenwriting and an interdisciplinary PhD in film theory, philosophy, and literature. In addition to writing, she also teaches creative writing and cinema studies at Miami International University of Art and Design. Here she talks about writing her first novel, finding her agent, blogging and more and offers some advice to unpublished writers.

You've published a number of short stories and your debut book Total Constant Order started as a short story collection. Tell me about that evolution--what led you from short stories to novels?

My first "books" were 90-minute audio cassettes that I mailed to my cousin in Massachusetts. I'd write the epic script and act out the voices, not to mention the music (my totally awesome ghetto blaster, cranked to ear-piercing decibels in the background) and the cheesy sound effects--footsteps, falling rocks, etc. Sometimes I would Zip-loc my tape-recorder in a plastic bag and splash around in the pool. (Kids, don't try this at home).

In college, my creative writing professors focused on short stories. I grew used to thinking in terms of shorter formats, much like my old-school cassettes, and the thought of writing a full-length novel terrified me. I started out writing a collection of interconnected short stories. After a series of false starts, I threw that project out the window and began working on Total Constant Order, featuring Frances Isabelle Nash (Fin for short), a character that I had created years ago.

Total Constant Order was sold at auction to HarperCollins imprint Katherine Tegen Books. How did you find your agent Kate Lee (of ICM), who orchestrated said auction?

I met my agent in a very postmodern way: over the Internet. At the time, I had grown frustrated with licking stamps, sending out snail-mail queries, and receiving rejection letters months later. I decided to kick-start my agent-quest and fire off a round of emails. Kate responded to my cyber-query in a flash. I didn't realize that she had a reputation as the "agent to the bloggers." To this day, we correspond primarily through email.

What was the publication process like for you? From reading your 21 Steps to Publishing a Novel, it sounds long/exhausting/exciting. What would you say surprised you the most?

After working as a freelance journalist, where everything moves at light speed, I've learned that the book-publishing business is turtle-paced by comparison. My book was sold back in 2005 and it's finally hitting the shelves two years later. I've learned that it takes time to establish a marketing plan for a first-time author. HarperCollins has been so cool about sharing the process with me. For example, an author usually has little say in the cover design of their book, but they listened to my suggestions and I'm thrilled with the result.

Fin, your main character, talks about having a voice in her head "ordering me to listen." As a writer, do you have such a voice guiding you?

I bet most writers would admit, "Yeah. I hear voices in my head." I hear the sound of my characters talking to me. They spill their guts and whisper their darkest secrets. That's what makes writing so much fun. It's like dreaming with your eyes open. Every morning, I roll out of bed and stumble over to the computer and plug myself into an imaginary world. When I was a kid, I used to keep Trapper Keepers full of descriptions and drawings of my "invisible" friends. I still think about them and wonder what they're doing.

Tell us a little more about Fin and your book.

For the past two years, I've been secretly writing as my main character, 15-year-old Fin, in a Diaryland blog called "Sunshine State." I didn't want to write about myself (What I ate for breakfast. Or: What I bought at the grocery store). There's a lot of pressure on authors to blog as a way of reaching out to their readers. I'm a big fan of Megan McCafferty's "retro blog," in which she posts hilarious snippets of her high-school diary. Sarah Dessen's Livejournal features her favorite TV obsessions. I also love Blake Nelson's minimalist musings on his subway encounters with Prada-clad rock bands or the Zenlike nature of cows, etc. But I'm too shy to reveal large chunks of my private self: so I've kept an online journal under my real name, which is mostly about my publishing journey (because I'm obsessive and I like to keep track of things). At the same time, I've been blogging as Fin as my alter-ego in cyberspace.

At first, I shunned the idea of blogging. I shrugged it off as a distraction. Then, as Fin's readers began to respond to the stories, drawings and pictures I posted online, I realized that it is a valuable experience. Instead of sitting in my room, pecking away on a keyboard, I was connecting to people in an interactive universe. Writers live a very solitary life. For once, I didn't feel so alone.

You said that in college you were known as "the-chick-who-writes-about- teenagers." Why do you think you're drawn to creating teen characters? Why do you feel that "teenagers are the most interesting people on the planet"?

I still don't feel "grown up." In a kid's point of view, a day moves by slowly. They're always experiencing new things. Adults often complain that a week will fly by and they barely notice. I believe that it's easy to fall into a routine as you grow older...the daily grind of driving to work and all the responsibilities that fall on a person's shoulders. Sometimes when I talk to adults, it seems like their world has become so small. They chat about their jobs, the car they just bought, their mortgage, etc. As a college professor, I spend my days talking to teenagers. They haven't quite learned how to hide themselves yet. They blurt out their thoughts and opinions. They're desperate to have someone listen and take them seriously. (I get the feeling that they're used to being shooed away). I never grow tired of listening to them.

You've said Total Constant Order is based your own experience with OCD and that you are displeased with how the disorder is portrayed in the media. Why do you think it's misunderstood?

It's difficult to portray obsessive-compulsive disorder in TV or film because the action is primarily taking place inside the character's mind. Fin feels like a volcano. On the outside, she is sitting quietly at her desk. On the inside, she is ready to blow up. Thayer feels the same way when he takes Ritalin. I wanted to show that OCD is not a punchline to a joke. It's not about funny rituals: like tapping a light switch or counting footsteps. It's about feeling as if your life has slipped out of your control. I think that many teenagers can relate to that experience.

One review said that Miami is like a character in your novel (certainly a more interesting Miami character than the one in a certain David Caruso program). Here's another chance to tell us how Real Miami and TV Miami differ.

Miami must be the most misunderstood city in the United States. Those postcard-images of palm trees, pink flamingoes and sunny beaches are a mirage. Most often, you get a glimpse of a few neon-soaked avenues on South Beach (which is an island) and not the city itself. I wanted to depict the "real Miami," from the cookie-cutter McMansions of the Kendall suburbs to the graffiti-splattered industrial wasteland of downtown, the manatees hovering in canals and the hip-hop kids with the souped-up Hondas, fast food joints like Pollo Tropical, and Cuban coffee stands, a schizophrenic mix of urban sprawl and primal swamps. That's the Miami I know.

Megan McCafferty told you the YA community is filled with kindred spirits who remain forever teen, and it's important to help each other out. In that spirit, any favorite YA novelists you'd like to mention?

The blogging authors that I've mentioned are some of my favorites. I grew up devouring a lot of sci-fi and fantasy (think: Ursula K. Le Guin and Zilpha Keatley Snyder). In fact, the video game based on Snyder's Below the Root was one of my first experiences in thinking about interactivity and the way we read books.

(One more question since you don't like odd numbers). If you could give unpublished writers two pieces of advice, what would you tell them?

Everybody has a different story about their path to publication. If you listen to those stories, you'll hear a lot of conflicting information. I've learned that rules are meant to be broken (For example, many literary agencies say, "Don't query via email," and yet, that's how I met my agent). I was also told that teens don't like to read a lot of description. After hearing this a few times in my rejection letters from literary agents, I cut out some of my descriptive paragraphs. Then, when I met my agent, she encouraged me to put back what I had deleted. So my two cents would be: Write the book you want to read. And don't give up, no matter how many times you hear the words, "Not for me." Maybe it's not for them. It's for somebody else.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The New Publishing Math: Trilogy = Four...

After finishing the third book in Scott Westerfeld's Uglies trilogy, I was really excited to find that Extras was coming out, a fourth book in the once-was-a-trilogy- now-is-a-series. Now it's being reported that Christopher Paolini's best-selling Inheritance trilogy will have a fourth book, officially changing it from a trilogy to a "cycle." At 5 p.m. EST today a video will be available on Paolini's website offering an Exclusive Message about this development, which I'm sure will be very exciting to fans of the fantasy trilogy series cycle.

I probably shouldn't admit this in cyberspace, but I gotta say that Christopher Paolini is not exactly a favorite of fine. Every time I hear him interviewed I sort of get this powerful urge to kick him in the shins. Does he have to use 15-syllable words I must look up? Did he really say that if they're looking for a family to live alone in a biosphere for five years he and his parents and sister are so there? Does he really think having his work edited feels like splinters of hot bamboo being driven into his tender eyeballs?

Maybe I'm being too grumpy. I've never met him, and he may be a perfectly nice young man with whom I'd enjoying having a beer (or forging a sword). But for now I can only suppose he's some sort of eccentric young genius who I could never possibly understand.

I'll be sure to check out his video.

Friday, October 26, 2007

More on Boys and (Not) Reading...

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran an article this past Wednesday on the topic of boys' lack of interest in reading for which they interviewed Walter Dean Myers who stressed that education does not end at school. Said Myers: "Too many parents have walked away from this idea ... that education is a family concept, is a community concept, is not simply something that schools do." Parents, he said, need to talk to their sons about reading.

The article, mentions, as others have, that the children's publishing industry does not make enough of an effort to publish and market books to young male readers. Myers even seems to suggest that more male editors are needed, saying, "I've never had a male editor."

(For more on this topic, see page 37 of the 2008 CWIM for Delacorte editor Krista Marino's article "Writing for Boys: An Editor's Advice on Reaching These Often Reluctant Readers.")

As the parent of a boy, reading on this topic always concerns me a bit. I can't imagine having a son who grows up without loving (or at least liking) books. I talk to Murray about books and we read books often and we make evenings of trips to the bookstore. There's no chance that he won't hear about books at home. Plus there's pretty much no direction one can look in any room in my house and not see books.

But what if he ends up friends with a bunch of video-game-
playing hooligans with no interest in literature? These are the kinds of thoughts that bonk around in my brain at two in the morning on weeknights after the cat wakes me up: How do I get him to eat more vegetables? Does he already like TV too much? Will his binky make him need braces? What if his tween-age friends are video-game-playing hooligans? It's a wonder I ever sleep.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

On Dumbledore's Gayness...

I'm sure you've heard that JK Rowling has been revealing more than just her undergarments on her current tour (I hope I don't get hate mail or fired for that last link)--she's recently let Hogwarts headmaster Dumbledore out of the closet. They're writing about it everywhere.

Check out the Onion if you'd like a chuckle. Then see Alison Morris's PW Shelftalker blog post, What Happens in Hogwarts Stays in Hogwarts with lots and lots of links and a thoughtful commentary.

I can't help but wonder if the people who wanted HP banned because of the magic are excited to have something else to object to.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Upcoming Graphic Novel Day in the O.C....

If you're interested in creating graphic novels for young readers, but aren't sure how to got about it (and you live in Southern California area) check out the upcoming Graphic Novel Day coordinated by the Orange County/San Bernardino/Riverside chapter of SCBWI. The day-long event, which will be held Saturday, November 3rd, will offers hand-on sessions with information for both writers and illustrators, the bulk of which will be presented by children's book illustrator and graphic novel creator Mac McCool. (It's only $55 for SCBWI members.)

Friday, October 19, 2007

More Publishing News: Chronicle...

From today's Publisher's Lunch:

"At Chronicle's children's division, Julie Romeis has been hired as editor, managing a list of titles including middle grade and young adult fiction. She was an editor at Bloomsbury, and is relocating to San Francisco to start next month. Peter Bohan will join the unit as children's marketing manager. He was marketing and promotions manager at Workman."

Here's the CWIM listing for Chronicle (since I'm in a listing posting mood today):

680 Second St. San Francisco CA 94107. (415)537-4400. Fax: (415)537-4415. Web site: Book publisher. Acquisitions: Victoria Rock, associate publisher, children's books. Publishes 50-60 (both fiction and nonfiction) books/year; 5-10% middle readers/year; young adult nonfiction titles/year. 10-25% of books by first-time authors; 20-40% of books from agented writers.
Fiction Picture books, young readers, middle readers: "We are open to a very wide range of topics." Young adults: "We are interested in young adult projects, and do not have specific limitations on subject matter." Recently published Emily's Balloon, by Komako Sakai (ages 2-6, picture book); Ivy and Bean, by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (ages 6-10, chapter book).
Nonfiction Picture books, young readers, middle readers, young adults: "We are open to a very wide range of topics." Recently published An Egg Is Quiet, by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long (ages 4-10, picture book); Tour America, by Diane Siebert, illustrated by Stephen Johnson (ages 7-12, picture book).
How to Contact/Writers Fiction/nonfiction: Submit complete ms (picture books); submit outline/synopsis and 3 sample chapters (for older readers). Responds to queries in 1 month; will not respond to submissions unless interested. Publishes a book 1-3 years after acceptance. Will consider simultaneous submissions, as long as they are marked "multiple submissions." Will not consider submissions by fax, e-mail or disk. Do not include SASE; do not send original materials. No submissions will be returned; to confirm receipt, include a SASP.
Illustration Works with 40-50 illustrators/year. Wants "unusual art, graphically strong, something that will stand out on the shelves. Fine art, not mass market." Reviews ms/illustration packages from artists. "Indicate if project must be considered jointly, or if editor may consider text and art separately." Illustrations only: Submit samples of artist's work (not necessarily from book, but in the envisioned style). Slides, tearsheets and color photocopies OK. (No original art.) Dummies helpful. Resume helpful. Samples suited to our needs are filed for future reference. Samples not suited to our needs will be recycled. Queries and project proposals responded to in same time frame as author query/proposals."
Photography Purchases photos from freelancers. Works on assignment only.
Terms Generally pays authors in royalties based on retail price, "though we do occasionally work on a flat fee basis." Advance varies. Illustrators paid royalty based on retail price or flat fee. Sends proofs to authors and illustrators. Book catalog for 9 x 12 SAE and 8 first-class stamps; ms guidelines for #10 SASE.
Tips "Chronicle Books publishes an eclectic mixture of traditional and innovative children's books. We are interested in taking on projects that have a unique bent to them-be it subject matter, writing style, or illustrative technique. As a small list, we are looking for books that will lend us a distinctive flavor. Primarily we are interested in fiction and nonfiction picture books for children ages infant-8 years, and nonfiction books for children ages 8-12 years. We are also interested in developing a middle grade/YA fiction program, and are looking for literary fiction that deals with relevant issues. Our sales reps are witnessing a resistance to alphabet books. And the market has become increasingly competitive. The '80s boom in children's publishing has passed, and the market is demanding high-quality books that work on many different levels."

Recent Publishing News mostly from PW...

Below are the full CWIM listings for Roaring Brook (which now includes Nancy's name) and Hyperion. They both prefer agented material.

114 Fifth Ave., New York NY 10011-5690. (212)633-4400. Fax: (212)633-4833. Web site: Manuscript Acquisitions: Editorial Director. Art Director: Anne Diebel. 10% of books by first-time authors. Publishes various categories.
  • Hyperion title Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, written and illustrated by Mo Willems, won a 2005 Caldecott Honor Award. Their title Who Am I Without Him?: Short Stories About Girls and the Boys in Their Lives, by Sharon G. Flake, won a 2005 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award.
Fiction Picture books, young readers, middle readers, young adults: adventure, animal, anthology (short stories), contemporary, fantasy, folktales, history, humor, multicultural, poetry, science fiction, sports, suspense/mystery. Middle readers, young adults: commercial fiction. Recently published Emily's First 100 Days of School, by Rosemary Wells (ages 3-6, New York Times bestseller); Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer (YA novel, New York Times bestseller); Dumpy The Dump Truck, series by Julie Andrews Edwards and Emma Walton Hamilton (ages 3-7).
Nonfiction All trade subjects for all levels.
How to Contact/Writers Only interested in agented material.
Illustration Works with 100 illustrators/year. "Picture books are fully illustrated throughout. All others depend on individual project." Reviews ms/illustration packages from artists. Submit complete package. Illustrations only: Submit résumé, business card, promotional literature or tearsheets to be kept on file. Responds only if interested. Original artwork returned at job's completion.
Photography Works on assignment only. Publishes photo essays and photo concept books. Provide résumé, business card, promotional literature or tearsheets to be kept on file.
Terms Pays authors royalty based on retail price. Offers advances. Pays illustrators and photographers royalty based on retail price or a flat fee. Sends galleys to authors; dummies to illustrators. Book catalog available for 9×12 SAE and 3 first-class stamps.

143 West St., Suite W, New Milford CT 06776. (860)350-4434. Manuscript/Art Acquisitions: Simon Boughton, publisher. Executive Editor: Nancy Mercado. Publishes approximately 40 titles/year. 1% of books by first-time authors. This publisher's goal is "to publish distinctive high-quality children's literature for all ages. To be a great place for authors to be published. To provide personal attention and a focused and thoughtful publishing effort for every book and every author on the list."
  • Roaring Brook Press is an imprint of Holtzbrinck Publishers, a group of companies that includes Henry Holt and Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Roaring Brook is not accepting unsolicited manuscripts.
Fiction Picture books, young readers, middle readers, young adults: adventure, animal, contemporary, fantasy, history, humor, multicultural, nature/environment, poetry, religion, science fiction, sports, suspense/mystery. Recently published Get Real, by Betty Hicks.
How to Contact/Writers Primarily interested in agented material. Not accepting unsolicited mss or queries. Will consider simultaneous agented submissions.
Illustration Primarily interested in agented material. Works with 25 illustrators/year. Illustrations only: Query with samples. Do not send original art; copies only through the mail. Samples returned with SASE.
Photography Works on assignment only.
Terms Pays authors royalty based on retail price. Pays illustrators royalty or flat fee depending on project. Sends galleys to authors; dummies to illustrators, if requested.
Tips "You should find a reputable agent and have him/her submit your work."

A Manuscript in the Morning...

My best friend/former roommate/co-worker Megan called me first thing this morning. "I have something for you," she said. Intrigued, I ran up the stairs to her office. When I got there she pointed to a big stack of paper held together by a big binder clip. "I finished my book."

Fueled by a steady diet of Scott Westerfeld and Stephanie Meyer, Megan started writing her YA novel on June 16 with a goal of writing 500 words a day--which she exceeded, producing her 65,000 word first draft in four months, during which time she took a research trip as well.

I'm very excited to be the first one to read it. And I can't wait until we're ready to start submitting it. It will be fun to put CWIM to the test.

Monday, October 15, 2007

On Playgrounds and Picture Books...

Yesterday my husband and I took Murray to the playground. It was really a perfect day at the park--clear and coolish and breezy. And the jungle gyms were not overpopulated with big kids who don't pay enough attention to their proximity to my three-year-old.

Murray was particularly excited about the playground because his girlfriend Emily was there. (He says she's his girlfriend. She says he's like "a brother she doesn't have.") Murray leads Emily around by her hand, and won't let her play with other kids and she happily obliges, lifts him up on the tire swing, and watches over him while he climbs. Emily is nine-years old and blond. (My son has a thing for blond older women.) He said he missed her. She asked him if he'd like to go trick-or-treating with her.

Watching the two of them together really melted my heart. And I realized it had been a while since I observed a group of kids playing for more than the two minutes I'm at Murray's preschool when I pick him up in the afternoons. I saw some boys tossing football and another group of kids climbing a big tree. I saw tiny toddlers laughing as their parent's pushed them on the swings. I watched all the kids climbing and hanging upside down and going down the slides. I even did a little playing myself. (Did you ever get a swing going really high then close your eyes? It's kind of like you're flying.)

I've been really caught up in YA the last few years, reading tons of novels for teen readers. Seeing these younger kids yesterday made me think about what really led me to my job: my love of picture books. I realized I miss picture books at least as much as Murray missed Emily. Sure I read some to him, but he's more interested books that teach him about trucks and tractors than books that tell stories.

I made a Monday night plan: I'm pulling out a stack of some of favorite pictures books, sitting in my spot on the couch, and poring over them. And hopefully I can get Murray to sit with me, and start learning that Toot and Puddle are just as fun to read about as giant excavators and tractor trailers.

Friday, October 12, 2007

New AGDM Blog...

Erika O'Connell, editor of Aritst's & Graphic Designer's Market, has recently begun a blog for artists. So far she's blogged about things like events, calls for entries, and what's in the 2008 AGDM (it's a great edition), talked about art and artists, and shared the story of recently meeting Henry Rollins (and how he's somehow connected to the 2008 AGDM). To check out the blog and sign up for the new AGDM newsletter, click here.

National Book Award Nominees...

Finalists for the National Book Award for have recently been announced. Authors nominated in the Young People's Literature include 2008 CWIM contributor Kathleen Duey, for Skin Hunger: A Resurrection of Magic, Book One (Atheneum) as well as Sherman Alexie for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown); M. Sindy Felin for Touching Snow (Atheneum); Brian Selznick for The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic); and debut author and Class of 2k7 member Sara Zarr for Story of a Girl (Little, Brown).

The full list is posted in GalleyCat. Winners will be announced in November 14.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Looking for an Agent?...

Visit Chuck Sambuchino's GLA blog to read about budding agent Jennifer Laughran of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency who is looking for clients writing middle grade and YA.

Free Copies of Eric Luper's Big Slick...

Author Eric Luper tells me that the first two readers who email FSG publicity and mention reading my interview with him in the CWIM newsletter will receive a free copy of Big Slick.

Send an email to

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Editor Interview: Ben Schrank...

Before joining Razorbill in 2006 as President and Publisher, Ben Schrank wrote novels, served as fiction editor at Seventeen, and edited bestselling YA series (Gossip Girl and The Clique). Now at the helm of Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group that specializes in young adult and middle grade books, Schrank oversees 30 plus titles a year, mostly contemporary commercial fiction

What attracts you to writing and editing material for a YA audience?

I love the arc that happens in a story for young readers-kids learn and change so fast and working on embodying that experience in novel form is what keeps me interested in the area.

Spud, A Wickedly Funny Novel by John van de Ruit that was a huge seller in South Africa will be released in the U.S. by Razorbill this month. How did the book end up at your imprint? Please tell my readers what you love about the title.

Susan Petersen Kennedy brought it back from Penguin South Africa and thought it would be right for us. We read it and loved it and while we waited to publish, it grew into a phenomenon in South Africa that shocked everyone involved. There are now bus tours of Michaelhouse, the boarding school that John van de Ruit went to and based the story on. I love the book because it's funny and true and it teaches us a lot about ourselves and shows us a way of life that a lot of us know nothing about.

Why do you think Spud (which is being called the "South African Catcher in the Rye"), will appeal to readers in the U.S.?

It's a universal story. As I noted above, it's hilarious and honest and I have to believe that U.S. readers will relate to Spud, will love the voice, and will embrace both its foreignness and its charm.

What makes a book-and an author-right for Razorbill?

We love a book that is conceptually strong and has a voice that supports the concept. The book demands attention from the reader. The author supports the book, builds a great website, understands what the publisher can and can't do, and remembers that we're all in it because we love books.

Your website says "you can count on our list to be short and razor sharp." Why a short list?

We're a small group and we want to give our books the care they deserve. We never want to sign off on a cover we don't love or let a book go into the bookstores that we don't think is perfect. A short list gives us better control and keeps us, well, sharp.

I see at least a couple of debut books featured on Razorbill's website (Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why and Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead). How can a new author break in at Razorbill? Do you consider only agented work?

A new author breaks in because their novel is great. There's no other reason. We've only bought agented work up to this time, but you never know...

Can you offer a few pieces of advice to aspiring YA authors?

The market is a shifting target that changes all the time. Don't write for it. Write to please yourself. If you are relentless and work hard, the reader will come to your work.

Debut Author of the Month: Eric Luper...

Just as those unfortunate folks who can't keep away from casinos, if you read the first chapter of Eric Luper's debut Big Slick you'll be hooked. Luper's young adult novel is set in a Texas Hold'em world of high stakes and big bucks, but, as the author explains below, it's more than just a book about playing poker.

Tell my
readers a little about your first novel, Big Slick, which was just released by Farrar, Strauss & Giroux.

Big Slick is a novel about a young poker prodigy named Andrew Lang who gets himself into some hot water after he decides to "borrow" a few hundred dollars from the cash register at his family's dry-cleaning business to play in a big tournament. Andrew makes mistake after mistake and things quickly spiral out of control. Throw into the mix a hot co-worker crush, a borderline geeky best friend, and a very strange family dynamic and we have the recipe for some major-league hi-jinks.

But although people like to pigeonhole Big Slick as a "poker book," it's really a novel about love, friendship and trust.

And tell us about some of the research you did as you wrote. Did it ever get...expensive?

Surprisingly not. I started writing Big Slick soon after I learned about the game. After reading about a dozen books on Texas Hold'em, I was probably better prepared than most when I first sat at a table. And I had a killer good-luck streak. I played in Atlantic City, Las Vegas and at a local Indian casino and every time I left with more money than I started with.

Lately, I have been playing far less often and my skills have waned. I'm not nearly as sharp as I was. In fact, I'm a sitting duck (at least that's what I want you to think!).

What's a bigger gamble: going all-in, or submitting an unsolicited manuscript?

Submitting an unsolicited manuscript is not a gamble at all. A writer must continually hone his craft, write and revise relentlessly, and do the research to find the best publishing house and editor for his novel. If some part of that is luck, please show me the angle!

You didn't have an agent for your first book Big Slick. How did you wind up at FSG?

I met Wes Adams at the mid-winter SCBWI conference in New York City. I found out he was Jack Gantos's editor and I had to go see what the guy had to say. Wes had forgotten his glasses that day and winged his presentation. I'm not sure if this was shtick or if he actually showed up with notes that he was unable to read, but it won me over. He had me at hello.

Tell us a little about your path to publication.

I have an English degree from Rutgers College, but I decided rather than choosing the path of the starving artist I would choose the path of the not-starving artist. So, I went to professional school after undergraduate. After a few years, I decided to get back into writing and I began to tinker around with this and that. I worked on a middle grade fantasy, a picture book, a chapter book and another young adult title. Each piece I worked on got progressively better, and although I had a few nibbles, I couldn't seem to get any traction. Then Big Slick happened in 5 months or so and it was accepted on one of its first submissions with very few revisions necessary. It seems I had turned a corner.

Why did you decide to pursue an agent after your first publication was underway? How did you find your agent Linda Pratt?

Having my professional practice and a family and a house and pursuing a writing career is too much for any one person to handle. I opted to get an agent because I wanted the additional time to write.

I have known Linda Pratt since 2001 when I got a 10-minute critique with her at a conference in Lake Placid, NY. After her critique, she offered to take a look at my submission once I revised it. In retrospect, the book was terrible, but Linda read all 200+ pages of it and sent me a 5-page single-spaced critique letter that did not spare the rod. Short of getting my first book contract, it was the most cathartic moment in my writing career. I submitted things to her periodically after that, but somewhere deep down I knew I wasn't ready.

Then, after Big Slick was in the can and I was going full-steam on my next novel, I saw Linda at the Rutgers One-on-One conference. It may sound crazy, but I walked right up to her and told her that I was ready for her. She lit up and suggested I send her what I was working on. I sent her Bug Boy in February of this year and the Sheldon Fogelman Agency offered me representation within weeks. The call came as I was trying my best to navigate Disney with my family. I was so excited that it was a struggle not to drive my rental car into a giant topiary of Goofy.

You're an active member of SCBWI, part of the Class of 2k7 and a member of several critique groups--how has this network been helpful to you as you sought publication?

This question alone could be a topic for a book-or at least a thesis of some sort. For me, writing is a very private endeavor. However, I think writers, like any artists, need an outlet to share the experience with other like-minded people. I consider myself fortunate to have grown alongside dozens of other writers-seeing each of them develop, blossom, stumble, and succeed right as I'm doing the same has been awesome. The Class of 2k7 has been particularly interesting because we are all following a very similar trajectory right now-the release of our first books. It's been so helpful to hear about editing woes, cover design gripes, review indigestion and book release jitters from so many other talented authors right when I'm experiencing the exact same thing. Even though we are all very different, we're all in this together!

How did a reluctant reader like yourself end up an English/Creative Writing major at Rutgers?

I am going to have to chalk that up to uninspired high-school English teachers. I remember Mr. Byrne teaching us about iambic pentameter with his head buried in a book. He read us Reuben Bright by Edwin Arlington Robinson with such a stress on the meter that he sounded like a depressed robot. I tuned out for the next three years.

Only when I got to college-when I took my freshman composition class-did I get the suspicion that I might actually like this stuff. We read The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and our professor asked us to write an essay on it. Then the teacher scrambled up the essays, redistributed them, and charged us with writing a "review" on the other student's paper. Mine was called "The Unbearable Paper of Rebecca ______." I trashed this girl's essay like I was a scorned lover with a thorn in my paw and haven't looked back since.

And before I get all sorts of hate mail: No, our grades were not affected by the reviewer's opinion!

Do you think if there were more books like Big Slick (exciting, a little racy, with male main characters) when you were younger, you may have been more interested in reading?

I would like to think so. When I was in 7th grade, I thought I should be "into" books like Lord of the Rings and Dune, but they were far beyond my reading level. This shut me down. For a guy who didn't read much, I spent a lot of time in the library. I actually got into a fistfight in the library. Clearly, I lacked proper guidance.

What's your advice for reaching the notoriously reluctant teen male reader?

Write about what makes you nervous, happy, sad, or frightened-whatever moves you. Then trust that it will move someone else. For me, this is the hardest part about writing. You have to bare your innermost feelings. You have to put everything out there. If you are writing and you do not have a visceral reaction, then you are not digging deep enough.

Short chapters and a lot of action help too!

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring YA novelists? What's your best piece of advice for aspiring gamblers?

My advice for aspiring YA novelists and aspiring gamblers is the same: Get a real job. Very few novelists and very few gamblers are able to make a living at what they love to do!

Can you beat me at poker? (Does everyone ask you that?)

Like I said before, my skills have really slipped. I'm terrible these days. So, when do you want to play?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

New Chapter in the Chronicle/Blurb Story...

You may have seen it reported recently that Chronicle Books was forming a partnership with print-on-demand publisher in which Chronicle would refer writers to the service and in turn receive a fee from Blurb.

Now Publishers Lunch quotes Sarah Williams at Chronicle saying that information cited in Newsweek was not correct: "Chronicle Books will not receive a referral fee for recommending to aspiring authors or artists," she said.

She goes on to say: "Chronicle will provide a landing page from our website to which our editors may refer authors or artists whose works they feel are a good match for For their
part, will offer us discoveries they might make in terms of online trends, notably how consumers are finding books online. There are many self-publishing options in the marketplace, though far fewer for illustrated book authors and artists. As an independent illustrated book publisher in San Francisco, Chronicle Books felt an affinity for the locally-based and the quality of the product it is offering the public."

We can't help but wonder here at the Writer's Digest Books office whether Newsweek got it wrong or if Chronicle changed the terms of their partnership after the fact due to reactions of the writing/publishing world. It makes me uneasy to think that a reputable publisher like Chronicle would enter into such a deal, referring rejected writers to a self-publishing outlet for a fee. Even without the fee it still feels a icky.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Here's News: Boys Don't Like Girly Book Covers...

My co-worker sent me a link to this piece in a British paper discussing the fact that publishers aren't choosing covers with universal appeal for boys and girls. It's not exactly breaking news that boys won't get caught dead reading books with pink covers. But I wonder if a cover can appeal to both boys and girls? As Hodder Children's Books publishing director Anne McNeil says in the article, “Where books are about real contemporary characters rather than fantasy, we find that it is challenging to produce a cover which appeals equally to both genders--the danger is, you end up appealing to neither. Therefore we do tend to make a targeted decision, and are comfortable that this produces more sales.” That's smart--it's also not breaking news that girls read more than boys and thus buy more books.

But why? Is i due to all the pink book covers out there? Video games? Peer pressure? Societal mores? Who knows. As the mother of a 3-year-old boy, I've found it fascinating that my son, through no initial urging by his parents, is obsessed with things like delivery trucks, construction equipment and robots. He tells me certain toys, books, and his light-blue sweatpants which he refuses to wear are "for girls." How does this happen? Is it in his DNA to be repulsed by pastels? Is it because of me--am I too girly? I love pink. I have a pink dressing room (pink carpet, pink pillows) and a pink bathroom (pink sinks, pink toilet, pink tub). Pink = mommy, Mommy = girl therefore Pink = girl. Murray = boy therefore Murray avoids pink or anything with a pink-ish and thus girlish quality.

Why is it always the mother's fault?