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: www.chroniclekids.com. 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: www.hyperionbooksforchildren.com. 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 childrens.publicity@fsgbooks.com.

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?