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It’s a VERY special month here at Adventures, and we’re beyond thrilled to be able to share it with the writers who’ve been with us since the beginning, and with the new writers and readers who have joined us along the journey. And it really is a journey! Four years ago, I started this blog with a friend as we started to think about getting our books published. In less than a month, on October 28th, COMPULSION will finally emerge into the world as a published really-truly book. There are lots of fun things in store to celebrate the kick off, but wait . . . There’s even MORE to celebrate.
Our very own Lisa Gail Green has a fabulous new agent, and a slew of incredibly awesome new book deals, and our lovely Erin Cashman is brewing some wonderful news as well!
In the next couple of weeks, they are going to tell you their stories, and I’m going to tell you mine. What stories you ask? The stories of how we almost quit writing and ended up turning it around.
Have you ever felt like that? Like you were DONE? You just couldn’t face rejection or take coming “close" any more? Have you thought about giving up?
We all have! I did. Lisa did. Erin did.
But we kept going because we loved to write. You could almost say we had a Compulsion for Writing? :D
We’d love to hear about YOUR Compulsion for Writing. We want you to tell us your stories, and we’re going to host a giveaway and a celebration of persistence.
Here’s how it’s going to work.
1.) You write your story — a paragraph, a page, whatever you want — about how your Compulsion for Writing kept you going at a time when you got discouraged and thought about quitting.
2) You write about how to feed your Compulsion for Writing and keep the joy through the hard times.
4) Get everyone you know to “Like" the Compulsion for Writing Page and their favorite posts people have shared there. Here's a nifty banner you can use to help spread the word!
We’ll review the posts with the greatest number of "likes" and Lisa, Erin, and I will each pick winners. We’ll send the winners special gift packs, but we’ll also each provide half-hour long phone calls to discuss your writing in general, your book or WIP, querying, agents, the book business, publishing, promotion and marketing, our books, social media, or whatever else you want to talk about.
And, because sometimes all it takes is a bit of a push, but the people who need the biggest push are often the ones who don’t get it by querying or by entering contests, we’ll have some agent critiques for a few lucky winners, too.
On 10/21/28 at 6:00 PM eastern, we will join everyone for a live Facebook Party where we can all trade stories and answer questions. That’s also when we’ll announce the winners and throw in a few extra and spectacular live giveaways as well! So mark your calendars.
Oh, and for those who are voting on stories? We'll add giveaways as we go along, and we'll announce winners for those on the 22nd, too. The first will be posted on the Facebook page later today. Stop by and check it out. : )
More details are posted on the Facebook page, and stay tuned for our stories and prize packages coming in the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, here’s a bit of photo inspiration for what can happen if you don’t give up! : ) Last year, I was down at YALLFEST as a fan with some friends. They had stacks and stacks of Justine Magazines with the coolest Teen Read Week feature showcasing some great YA books. And tomorrow, the Justine Teen Read Week issue hits the stands, and guess what's in it?
And did I mention that Melissa Marr and I happen to be doing an event together to kick off the Compelling Reads Tour? That's total coincidence, but it's another example of what can happen.
It CAN happen. You just have to believe! (And be compelled to write!)
Barry Lee is an Atlanta based freelance illustrator who has a love for bright colors, weird characters and pop culture. He feels humor can be universal through illustration and gains inspiration everywhere from early eighties funk records to the Muppets. Follow him on Instagram @barrydraws for daily sketches.
You can see more of Barry’s work on his website.
Meet the Western Pygmy Possum, the subject of our Cool Photo of the Week. This tiny marsupial lives in the dry countryside in various parts of Australia. Its body is just 3 inches (7.7 cm) long and its tail is as long as its body. Like most marsupials (kangaroos, for example), the females in this species carry their young in a pouch until they are ready to live on their own.This photograph makes me want to say: Can I have one, please?!Photo: Amanda McLean
You know Mac and Jon. You love Mac and Jon. Now meet Sam and Dave. You’ll love Sam and Dave.
Don’t rush into the pages just yet. This is one of the best covers I’ve seen in a long while. If we weren’t so aware that Jon Klassen (that insta-recognizable style!) is a contemporary illustrator, I would wholeheartedly presume that it was some vintage thing in a used bookstore. A find to gloat about, a find that makes you wonder just how you got so lucky.
The hole. The space left over. The words, stacked deeper and deeper. The apple tree whose tippy top is hidden. Two chaps, two caps, two shovels. One understanding dog.
Speaking of two chaps, two caps, and two shovels, check out the trailer.
(I’ll wait if you need to watch that about five more times.)
The start of their hole is shallow, and they are proud. But they have only just started. Sam asks Dave when they should stop, and this is Dave’s reply:
“We won’t stop digging until we find something spectacular.”
Dave’s voice of reason is so comforting to any young adventurer. It’s validating that your goal is something spectacular. (Do we forget this as grownups? To search for somthing spectacular? I think we do.)
Perhaps the pooch is the true voice of reason here, though he doesn’t ever let out a bark or a grumble. Those eyes, the scent, the hunt. He knows.
(click to enlarge)
And this is where Sam and Dave Dig a Hole treads the waters of picture book perfection. The treasure, this spectacular something, is just beyond the Sam and Dave’s reality. The reader gets the treat where Sam and Dave are stumped. Do you want to sit back and sigh about their unfortunate luck? Do you want to holler at them to just go this way or that way or pay attention to your brilliant dog? Do you root for them? Do you keep your secret?
The text placement on each page is sublime. If Sam and Dave plant themselves at the bottom of the page, so does the text. If the hole is deep and skinny, the text block mirrors its length. This design choice is a spectacular something. It’s subtle. It’s meaningful. It’s thoughtful and inevitable all at once.
(click to enlarge)
And then – then! Something spectacular. The text switches sides. The boys fall down. Through? Into? Under? Did the boys reach the other side? Are they where they started? Is this real life? Their homecoming is the same, but different. Where there was a this, now there is a that. Where there was a hmm, now there is an ahhh.
I like to think that the impossible journey here is a nod to Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak’s collaboration, A Hole is to Dig. That’s what holes are for. That’s what the dirt asks of you. It’s not something you do alone or without a plan or without hope. Sam and Dave operate in this truth. They need to dig. There’s not another choice.
Please give a warm welcome to special guest Larissa Ione! I’ll have a review of Chained by Night soon, but in the meantime, check out what she has to say about hunky hero Hunter.
So…Julie asked an interesting question about the hero of Chained By Night, one I’m going to have fun answering. She asked:
What five things would Hunter never do on a date?
Hmmm…I think telling you what he would do on a date would be easier, but for starters, he would never get drunk. Yes, he enjoys his alcohol, but when he’s with a female, his instinct is to keep her safe, which means drinking in moderation and never losing his situational awareness. With vampire hunters around every corner, he needs to be alert.
He would also never look at another female while on a date. That’s just rude.
Hunter isn’t much for dating in the traditional sense, given that vampires aren’t exactly welcome in human establishments, but if he were to take a female out for dinner and a movie, he’d never let her pay. Unless she was evil. Or human.
The fourth thing he would never, ever do on a date is demand sex. No, this boy can read the opposite sex with the skill of a predator on the prowl, and he knows when she’s ready. But no means no…and he’s very, very patient…
Finally, Hunter would never talk about his ex-lovers. It’s just bad form. Plus, a lot of them are dead. Wouldn’t want to scare off the new lover! ?
THE FUTURE OF HIS TRIBE: Leader of the vampire clan MoonBound, Hunter will do what he must to save his people from extinction—or worse, a torturous eternity as vampire slaves and subjects of human experimentation. To keep his enemies at bay, he has agreed to mate a rival clan leader’s daughter in return for peace between the clans and an ally in the looming war with the humans. THE LOVER OF HIS SOUL: But survival comes at a price. First, Hunter must break an ancient curse by successfully negotiating three deadly tests. Then he must resist the searing passions of the gorgeous vampire warrior he despises but is bound to mate. Will Hunter stay true to his word? Or will he risk everything for the woman he really loves: the vampire seductress’s identical twin sister?
I remember flirting – they did it back when I was in college, I think. It’s like penmanship – I was never any good at it. I was also bad at recognizing the few times it happened to me.
Case in point, I was at a party one time and a girl confided in me that she was having trouble with her boyfriend back home. She said it would be nice if she could find someone to make him jealous and gave me a long and rather odd look. I assumed the look meant she might be gassy or something, so I offered to refill her drink and plodded away.
Upon finding my friend, JC, I told him what had just happened. He gave me an equally odd look and said, “Dude, she wanted to make him jealous with you. Are you stupid?”
I refused to answer his charge, but rushed back to the young lady in question, only to find JC glued to her hip. In fact, he must have told every eligible male in the room because there seemed to be an impenetrable force field of testosterone around her. I have no idea what her intentions were and never saw her again.
Now I’m old and married. I flirt with my wife sometimes. I’m so bad at it that she mostly laughs at me when I do. I am a believer in wearing my wedding ring and I don’t frequent bars – so I don’t see much flirtation anymore. If I was bad at recognizing flirtation back in the day, I’m totally out of practice now.
Which brings me to a recent lunch where a lady half my age at a table nearby seemed to be peeking my way. It got downright embarrassing. I kept my head down – no sense leading her on with my charm and good looks (Ha!). After all, I am not available. I often wonder what a man in his 40’s would even talk about with a girl in her 20’s. Most of the time when a person that young talks to me, I feel like I’m watching Telemundo – I understand every third word and just nod a lot.
I felt the weight of this young lady’s stare all through lunch. My mind was ablaze with ways to tell my wife about it – that was going to be fun. The old man still has it! I couldn’t get in trouble for this. After all, several witnesses could testify that I didn’t initiate or encourage the situation. I was just a pawn in her game of lust.
At some point, she appeared two feet away from me. I had no desire to hurt her feelings. After I spurned her advances, I hoped she wouldn’t be crushed. Now that I saw her up close, she was a very attractive young lady who could easily find love with an available man closer to her age.
“Excuse me,” she said. “I’m sorry I was staring at you.”
“That’s okay,” I answered gently. “People say I look like Opie Taylor, so I get that a lot.”
Her look of confusion betrayed that she had no idea who that was… So young.
“No, that’s not it,” she said. “You just look familiar to me.”
The oldest pick-up line in the book. Here we go.
“I don’t think I know you,” I said.
“Oh, I know that. But you look exactly like my dad if he were bald. Do you mind if we take a selfie so I can send it to him?”
I smiled as best I could as she took the picture with my friends laughing wildly. My boastful story to my wife died with the flash of her phone, as did a piece of my self-esteem. I really gotta stop shaving my head.
This week, I was lucky enough to have a thirty-minute window when I could pop into my favorite independent bookstore in Los Angeles. They have a large children’s section on the second floor that I love perusing because they do an excellent job at getting new books.
On one of their displays sat El Deafo by Cece Bell. Intrigued first by the illustration of a superhero bunny and second by the title, my immediate thought was “What is this book about and who is this written for?” As if by fate, a children’s book worker looked up from her task of stocking new books and said “Oh that’s a really cute story. I highly recommend it.” I inquired about the reading level and she said it could be from fourth grade to middle school. Opening it, I was stoked to find out it was a graphic novel. Sold. It may be one of the best impulsive $20 I’ve spent of late.
I read this book in two days. It follows the author’s childhood experiences of being deaf, and specifically highlights her experiences in school. What captured me was the depiction of how people treated her and, since it’s from Cece’s point of view, how she felt. Her emotions come through strongly in the text and illustrations, and made me stop and think about how I treat people even if my intention is good. I connected with Cece’s superhero persona, “El Deafo.” Cece uses El Deafo to imagine the ideal way to handle tough situations, even if that doesn’t play out in real life (something I did as a kid too). What I really loved about this book was how the author depicted her friendships with the other kids (the good and the bad). It reminded me that children can sometimes do really mean things but that most of the time they mean well and can be really amazing friends to each other. It’s a lesson I need to carry for the school year.
Cece’s journey starts at the age of four and ends in fifth grade, so as a fifth grade teacher, I’m very excited to bring this graphic novel to my classroom. I think the students will enjoy this book and learn a lot from it. I believe that it will carry lessons of tolerance and respect for those who are hearing impaired, and prepare my students with tools (Don’t cover your mouth while someone is lip reading! Don’t assume all deaf people can sign!) to create meaningful and comfortable experiences with someone who can’t hear well.
I had such a great time at the TweensRead festival this weekend! This is the third time I’ve been to this event, and WOW, the crowd has grown! Every session was jam-packed with kids eager to hear from the twenty authors who participated, including local author Varsha Bajaj. Most sessions were standing room only. According to Valerie Koehler’s newsletter for Blue Willow Bookshop (which handled books sales for the event) over 1700 people attended, and 70% were tweens.
We’ve got more good stuff happening this week, both thanks to our good friends at Blue Willow Bookshop:
Ellen Hopkins is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of many books for teens, including CRANK, IMPULSE, and TILT, as well as the adult novels TRIANGLES and COLLATERAL.
In her new novel, RUMBLE, Matthew Turner doesn’t have faith in anything. Not in family–his is a shambles after his younger brother was bullied into suicide; not in so-called friends who turn their backs when things get tough; not in some all-powerful creator who lets too much bad stuff happen; and certainly not in some “It Gets Better” psychobabble.
No matter what his girlfriend, Hayden, says about faith and forgiveness, there’s no way Matt’s letting go of blame. He’s decided to “live large and go out with a huge bang,” and whatever happens happens. But when a horrific event plunges Matt into a dark, silent place, he hears a rumble…a rumble that wakes him up, calling everything he’s ever disbelieved into question.
Tyler Whitesides will discuss and sign STRIKE OF THE SWEEPERS, his newest novel in the JANITORS series for kids. The stakes have never been higher, and you’ve never seen squeegees do this before! It is a wild and slightly unsanitary ride as Spencer, Daisy, and the rebels find themselves chased by Mr. Clean’s new and terrifying breed of toxite: the Sweepers. Time is short. With the fabled Manualis Custodem in hand, Spencer must figure out how to summon the founding witches if they ever hope to mop up and save education.
Jagged is releasing in paperback, so I have a treat for you! Check out the excerpt, and then enter the awesome giveaway below!
JAGGED by Kristen Ashley (September 30, 2014; Forever Mass Market; $7.00)
An old flame rekindled . . . Zara Cinders always knew Ham Reece was the one, but he wasn’t interested in settling down. When she found someone who was, Ham walked out of her life. Three years later, Zara’s lost her business, her marriage, and she’s barely getting by in a tiny apartment on the wrong side of the tracks. As soon as Ham hears about Zara’s plight, he’s on her doorstep offering her a lifeline. Now, it will take every ounce of will power she possesses to resist all that he offers.
Ham was always a traveling man, never one to settle down in one town, with one woman, for more time than absolutely necessary. But Ham’s faced his own demons, and he’s learned a lot. About himself, and about the life he knows he’s meant to live. So when he hears that Zara’s having a rough time, he wants to be the one to help. In fact, he wants to do more than that for Zara. A lot more. But first, he must prove to Zara that he’s a changed man.
Kristen Ashley grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana, and has lived in Denver, Colorado, and the West Country of England. Thus she has been blessed to have friends and family around the globe. Her posse is loopy (to say the least) but loopy is good when you want to write. Kristen was raised in a house with a large and multigenerational family. They lived on a very small farm in a small town in the heartland, and Kristen grew up listening to the strains of Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon, and Whitesnake. Needless to say, growing up in a house full of music and love was a good way to grow up. And as she keeps growing up, it keeps getting better.
“Babe, you’re my Zara, my cookie, so fuck yeah, I’ve been bidin’ my time, givin’ you space to sort your head out, but waitin’ to get you back, as in”—his hand slid up to cup my jaw and his face dipped closer—“back.”
Was he serious? Two months…no seven, if you counted when he came back after hatchet man got to him, I’d been in misery and he’d been waiting to get me back?
I felt my eyes narrow.
“Last night, you rolled off me and didn’t say a word about a chat before you went to the bathroom,” I reminded him.
“Zara, what we shared, so good, so hot, so close, us bein’ back to us, didn’t feel I needed to say a word,” he replied.
Was he for real? “Back to us” and he didn’t feel he needed to say a word?
“Well, you did,” I stated.
“I see that now,” he returned.
Okay, then, time for a different subject.
“You said you didn’t want my body,” I accused.
“I lied, Zara. Fuck, when have I ever not wanted in there?” he asked, a question that had one answer, that being never. But he didn’t give me the chance to give that answer, he kept talking. “I would have said anything to get you out of that shithole, get you safe, and get you with me.”
“You lied?” I asked.
“I lied,” Ham answered.
“Lied?” My voice was getting higher.
“Asked and answered, darlin’,” he clipped.
“So you thought it was a good idea to lie,” I noted unhappily.
“Babe, I came to you, we almost instantly got up in each other’s shit. You had a lot you were dealin’ with and one of those things didn’t need to be me. You weren’t lettin’ anyone do anything for you. You needed time to deal. I wanted you with me. I did what I had to do to give you that and make that happen for me.”
My head gave a jerk as what he said tardily hit me.
“You wanted me with you?”
He was beginning to look impatient.
“You’ve known me years. I ever go back?” he asked.
“Go back to what?”
“Go back anywhere.”
“I don’t go back,” he declared.
“I don’t get—”
“Now I’m back in Gnaw Bone, back at The Dog, babe, why do you think that is?”
I didn’t speak. I was back to staring.
Because I knew why I wanted that to be.
I just rarely got what I wanted.
Then Graham Reece finally gave me what I wanted.
“Because you’re here.”
“Holy shit,” I whispered.
He stopped looking impatient, his eyes warmed, his face went soft, and his lips twitched.
But, “Yeah,” was all he said.
One winner gets a copy of JAGGED with a signed bookplate plus a Vera Bradley wristlet. Five winners get a copy of the book with signed bookplate. This giveaway runs through October 21 and is open to US/Canada only.
My guest blogger today is Kai Strand and she is offering up a chance to win some cool prizes. Take it away Kai….
Hey everybody, my name is Kai Strand. I was unpacking books at a signing and came across a copy of King of Bad with a torn cover. Bummer. I can’t sell that! But my loss is your gain. Because I can hold a giveaway instead!
Along with a slightly damaged copy of King of Bad, I’m also giving away several sets of character trading cards. These cards have been specially designed for book one in the series. There will be a separate set of cards designed for each book – so be among the first to own a set.
About the book:
Jeff Mean would rather set fires than follow rules or observe curfew. He wears his bad boy image like a favorite old hoodie; that is until he learns he has superpowers and is recruited by Super Villain Academy – where you learn to be good at being bad. In a school where one kid can evaporate all the water from your body and the girl you hang around with can perform psychic sex in your head, bad takes on a whole new meaning. Jeff wonders if he’s bad enough for SVA.
He may never find out. Classmates vilify him when he develops good manners. Then he’s kidnapped by those closest to him and left to wonder who is good and who is bad. His rescue is the climactic episode that balances good and evil in the super world. The catalyst – the girl he’s crushing on. A girlfriend and balancing the Supers is good, right? Or is it…bad?
Available in print or electronic:Whiskey Creek Press,Amazon,Barnes and Noble
Jeff admired the growth of the flames as they devoured wads of paper and fast food wrappers in the wire mesh trashcan. He slipped the book of matches into his pocket and sat back on his heels to admire his work. One side of the can merely smoldered so he blew gently to fan the guttering flame. It reminded him of how blowing on Jasmine’s neck the night before had resulted in a lovely arch of her back. He growled a throaty sigh, remembering Jasmine’s blissful distraction as he’d nibbled her earlobe.
Jeff glanced over his shoulder. A man, who looked like he belonged behind a desk in a downtown high rise, jogged toward him.
“ Ah, the sweet sounds of discipline.” Jeff stood, stuffed his fists in the front pockets of his jeans and shook the long bangs out of his eyes. He half expected the guy’s slick-soled business shoes to slip as he jogged across visitor parking. This was Jeff’s favorite part. Almost getting caught. When the guy was a baseball’s toss away, Jeff turned. He walked a couple steps then skipped up into a jog.
“ Kid, stop!”
Jeff chuckled to himself and said, “Yeah, sure,” and loped across the soccer field.
“ Wait a minute.”
Jeff stole a look over his shoulder. The guy was close even though he didn’t seem to be running very fast. Jeff grinned at him and increased his pace. A seven-foot tall chain link fence ringed in the far side of the field to prevent stray soccer balls from breaking the windows of passing cars on the street below. Jeff leaped onto the fence without slowing down and in two cat-like movements, launched himself over the top. He dropped to the ground, landing on a hill pocked with gopher holes, as easily as if he were jumping around in a bounce house. He smoothly transitioned back into a sprint and dashed across the street, startling a lady driving an SUV.
“ Kid, hold up.”
Jeff almost tripped; the guy was half way across the street already. He smirked, finally a decent chase, but not for long. With little effort, Jeff stepped up to a blurring speed. He dashed up a peaceful street that ran perpendicular to the school, where kids rode bikes and ran through sprinklers. Jeff recognized one of the “good” kids from school, washing a ’57 step-side Chevy.
“ Sweet ride,” Jeff called out. The kid looked up at him, but then snapped his head to the left. That guy cannot be that close! Jeff looked over his shoulder to find the guy was only a house length behind him. Holy crap, Batman. No one ever keeps up with me!
For the first time in a long time, Jeff worried. But only a little. With a deep, fortifying breath he pumped his thigh muscles harder. He whizzed past houses so fast he doubted anyone would be able to describe him if they were asked to later. Tears streamed sideways from the force of the wind his speed created. He’d only started to breathe a bit more heavily than normal. Jeff was built to run.
“ Kid, hold on just a second.”
Jeff stumbled, but regained his footing again before becoming road rash. The guy sounded as if he was only a bus length away. How can that be? No one runs as fast as I do. Jeff’s lungs constricted. An alien emotion, panic, budded in his chest. Stay focused. Controlled, deep breaths allowed calming oxygen into his lungs and up to his brain and Jeff’s airways opened fully again.
Real speed required concentration. Jeff concentrated on his thigh muscles. Usually he only bothered to think about the front muscles in order to ignite his unusual speed, but this time he thought about the sinewy, sleek muscles that wrapped gracefully around the larger front muscles. He envisioned how the smaller muscles provided strength and support to the larger working muscle. He pictured that strength extending into his gluteus maximus to sustain a strong stride. The resulting speed was completely inhuman.
I loved the world building! It made me wish I was part of it. Strand does a fantastic job of making the world of King of Bad seem like it's a real thing. -Heather
Kind of Bad sucks you in from the first page and doesn't let you go. I couldn't put it down! –Amazon Review
About the author:
When her children were young and the electricity winked out, Kai Strand gathered her family around the fireplace and they told stories, one sentence at a time. Her boys were rather fond of the ending, “And then everybody died. The end.” Now an award winning children’s author, Kai crafts fiction for kids and teens to provide an escape hatch from their reality. With a selection of novels for young adult and middle grade readers and short stories for the younger ones, Kai entertains children of all ages, and their adults. Learn more about Kai and her books on her website, www.kaistrand.com.
Best wishes, Donna M. McDine Multi Award-winning Children's Author
Ignite curiosity in your child through reading!
Connect with Donna McDine on Google+ A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star Review
Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review
Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Story Monster Approved and Reader's Farvorite Five Star Review
The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards FinalistAdd a Comment
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Open Letter's tribute-volume to Michael Henry Heim & A Life in Translation, The Man Between, edited by Esther Allen, Sean Cotter, and Russell Scott Valentino.
(It's a nice (and well-priced !) volume -- but I do note with some amusement that a misspelling of Stieg Larsson's name slipped through (yup, they called him 'Steig', p.276) -- something I'm encountering almost as frequently as misspellings of Edgar Allan Poe's middle name and the mistakenly apostrophized version of Joyce's Finnegans Wake -- a slip that feel almost Freudian coming from translators (who surely have a very uncomfortable relationship with the mega-success of that translation and its notorious history).)
Adding to my alphabet of reading critters, I give you a lemur! They're so cute with their long ringed tails. Do you suppose they like to read THE JUNGLE BOOK? CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!) Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially... my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, coming out next week! Click the cover to learn more! When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most. AWARDS **A SIBA OKRA Pick!** **A GOLD Mom's Choice Award Winner!** **The 2014 National Book Festival Featured Title for Georgia!** **eLit 2014 Gold Medal Winner in the Environmental/Ecology/Nature Category**
In the current issue of The New Yorker Masha Gessen profiles Lyudmila Ulitskaya -- surely also one of the maybe two dozen authors in the serious running for the Nobel Prize.
As Gessen notes, Daniel Stein, Interpreter was a huge success in Russia(n) -- but: "the English translation flopped in the United States" and was "barely noticed" (I noticed, and, yeah, I was a disappointed).
Still, I am certainly looking forward to/curious about The Big Green Tent (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
I’m definitely more of a “rules are there for a reason” than a “rules were meant to be broken” kind of girl. It just never occurs to me to buck the system, and frankly, that’s served me well all my life.
But when my freelance writing career stalled (despite the fact that I had 5+ years of experience with clips numbering in the triple digits), even playing by the rules top freelance writing experts teach wasn’t getting me anywhere.
“Send pitches to newsstand pubs and LOIs to trade pubs.” Check.
“Email editors – NEVER call them!” Check.
“DO NOT clog an editor’s inbox by attaching your clips.” Check.
“Whatever you do, take time to research each market and NEVER, EVER use a template email.” Check, check.
I was spending loads of time researching markets, ferreting out the appropriate editors’ contact info and meticulously wordsmith-ing every email from scratch. Despite my best rule-following efforts, none of the editors contacted me back. Not. One.
There simply aren’t words to describe how frustrated and discouraged I felt. Giving so much time and effort with nothing to show for it eventually took its toll. On a daily basis I was at best, fighting despair and at worst, sinking in its depths.
In the midst of all this, I started working with a writing mentor (the one-and-only Linda). She calmed me down and gave me a few pieces of advice which I, of course, followed to the letter. I got a few lukewarm responses from editors as a result, and I even sold an article to a new-to-me (but not great paying) market.
Sure, it was progress, which lifted my spirits to a degree. But let’s face it — I was still working long, hard hours for minimal payoff. NOT a sustainable pattern for any small business.
Then Linda gave me a tip that helped me think outside the box – and believe me, it was one I NEVER expected to hear from her or any freelance writing expert.
“Why not try calling some editors?” she said, “And write a great LOI email you can quickly tweak for each market. Ask if they assign to freelancers or if they prefer pitches.”
Um, excuse me, what did you say?? Call editors?? Write one LOI to reuse over and over?? Pitch to trade pubs?? Break rules?!?!
As if that weren’t enough, Linda challenged me to call 25 editors in one day.
The thought of doing things that are widely considered no-no’s freaked me out enough, but seriously, 25?! Believe it or not, the part that scared me the least was the actual cold calling. I have a background in sales and I’m good at talking to people and I like marketing myself. Maybe, just maybe, the reason my by-the-book efforts were flopping was because my approach felt inauthentic. Calling editors seemed much more “me” — I’d just always thought if I did it, they’d view me as unprofessional (and kind of hate my guts for bugging them).
But with Linda, a seasoned pro writer, saying it was OK, I didn’t hesitate.
Armed with a three sentence script Linda wrote for me and a short and sweet LOI template email, I started the challenge.
I didn’t even get to leave voicemails with five editors before my phone rang.
“Deb, I was just delighted to get your message!” Really and truly, an editor was calling me to tell me she was happy I’d called her — not “hacked off” or “appalled” or even just “annoyed.” It seems she’d heard my voicemail right after leaving an editorial meeting where she’d learned an article slated for the next issue had fallen through. I’d also thrown caution to the wind and sent her my LOI email with my resume and a clip attached. She’d seen something in my article that would make a perfect story to fill that empty spot. Could I get something into her within a couple of weeks?
I know, right?!?!
After all my nose-to-the-grindstone work and months of angst over doing things the “right” way, all it took was literally a couple of phone calls and I had a gig that paid more than triple what I’d been getting! Even better, the editor ended our conversation by saying this was “the start of a very beautiful working relationship.” Hello, future high-paying gigs!
I’m no expert when it comes to freelancing, but I do think there’s something to this whole “find what feels right for you” idea. Just because the freelance writing books and classes say “Do this” or “Don’t do that” doesn’t necessarily mean those rules are hard and fast. It took me having someone of Linda’s caliber giving me permission to break the rules for me to do something that in the end felt natural and comfortable for me. And it worked.
As long as your approach allows you to both be yourself and to “sell” yourself as a competent professional, it’s worth trying something out of the ordinary — especially if you’re feeling stuck. You can’t predict how editors will react, but if you’re being genuine and gracious to them, no reasonable editor would hate you just for doing something differently. If they do, consider yourself lucky to have been warned about their inner crazy before you got stuck working with them.
So what will you try that’s not in the books? Be brave and take a risk. Go ahead — run with a stick in your mouth! Jump on the good furniture! Call an editor! Take it from me — it’s good to be bad.
How about you? Have you ever broken a rule of freelance writing and benefited as a result? Or have you found a marketing tactic other freelancers would scoff at, but that works for you? Let us know in the Comments below!
Deb Mitchell is a freelance writer in Charlotte, NC specializing in writing about interior design and women’s interest topics. She also works with business clients to make their websites and client communications the best they can be and with students as a general writing and college application essay coach.
Naveen is the Customer Support Executive and Social Media Manager at BookBuzzr. When he is not working or playing gta, he is working on finishing his graduation. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Email.
Earlier this month, my husband Matt London, experienced something as an author that I’ve experienced many times as an editor. He launched his middle grade debut novel, The 8th Continent. In my career I’ve witnessed many book launches and supported my authors through all that goes with the publishing process as their editor. With Matt and The 8th Continent, I finally experienced it as a family member.
Let’s rewind about a decade…
My husband and I both got our starts in the publishing world around the same time. In fact, if it weren’t for him, I might not even be an editor today. I had taken a semester off of college to do a national theatre tour and after I returned, I spent the majority of my time in his dorm room reading a book a day. One day, Matt said “You’re a freakishly fast reader. You really should find out how to be a reader for a publishing house or literary agent.” The next day, I applied for an internship at a lit agency, snagged the job, and started my long journey to becoming an editor.
Matt was always writing. Since college I’ve been his first reader on nearly everything he’s written. We dreamed of the day I would be an editor and he would be a published author and we’d be living in a big penthouse on Central Park West… The realities of publishing salaries and the life of a freelance author have made that last big a tad hard to fulfill, but as of this month, we have the first two boxes checked off.
As you can imagine, life in an apartment with one editor and one author can be tricky, so here’s how we have survived.
No Crossing the Streams: It was always important to us that we each support each other while keeping up boundaries. When Matt’s book went on submission, there was never a moment when we considered sending it to me or my imprint. In fact, when he received his offer from Razorbill, I was still working at Penguin, and the editor had no idea we were married until he went in for a meeting. Of course, over the years we’ve both made contacts from interactions we’ve had at various parties and book launch parties, but I never sent an email to anyone saying “Hey, my man has a book you should read.” That said, at non-publishing events we often get a side-eye when people ask us what we do. “I’m a children’s book author.” “I’m a children’s book editor.” Quickly followed by an “Uh-huh…”
Empathy: I have to say having lived with an author on submission, it does make me look at my long list of submissions with more empathy for the writers. They also have family members listening to them freak out over long submission times and why an agent or editor is tweeting about reading (or not reading) submissions. On the other hand, I’m able to say “Hey, editors are human and sometimes just want to spend some time playing video games (yes, we’re nerds) with their husband or watch some Scandal. Chill out.” We’ve both humanized the other side for each other.
Knowing When to Step Aside: Once Matt got his book deal, I told him that I was going to stand back and leave the editing up to his editor. These days I typically read a first draft before he sends it just to assure him it’s not terrible. I don’t read the book again until it’s finished. I know how it can be as an editor knowing that an author has a bevy of beta-readers and family members reading each draft and how those voices can occasionally muddy the editorial process, so I just don’t insert myself. That said, whenever he starts a new project, I’m always very excited to read his new work.
Perspective: After spending my entire publishing career living with me, Matt has had a leg up in what to expect as a debut author. He’s been to many events for my authors and has heard all of the behind-the-scenes information on every book I’ve edited, so he went into the publishing process understanding the reality of being a debut middle grade author and did always have me to fall back on if he had a question about part of the process.
So after nearly ten years of working toward our goal, Matt’s book came out this month and it has been amazing and crazy and I couldn’t be more proud of him. I know now firsthand how intense launch week is for an author and their family and want to send hugs to every author and family I’ve ever worked with.
Here’s to many more years of our crazy life in publishing.
Jordan Hamessley London is an Editor at Egmont USA, where she edits middle grade and YA. Her current titles include Isla J. Bick’s new series, The Dark Passages (#1 White Space), Bree DeSpain’s new series Into the Dark (#1 The Shadow Prince), and more. Prior to Egmont, Jordan worked at Grosset and Dunlap, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers where she edited Adam-Troy Castro’s middle grade horror series Gustav Gloom, Ben H. Winters and Adam F. Watkin’s book of horror poetry Literally Disturbed, Michelle Schusterman’s I Heart Band series, Adam F. Watkins’s alphabet picture book R is for Robot and more. When not editing, Jordan can be found on twitter talking about books, scary movies, and musical theater.
The fifth and final book in the groundbreaking Joey Pigza series brings the beloved chronicle of this wired, wacky, and wonderful boy to a crescendo of chaos and craziness, as everything goes topsy-turvy for Joey just as he starts to get his feet on the ground. With his dad MIA in the wake of appearance-altering plastic surgery, Joey must give up school to look after his new baby brother and fill in for his mom, who hospitalizes herself to deal with a bad case of postpartum blues. As his challenges mount, Joey discovers a key that could unlock the secrets to his father’s whereabouts, a mystery that must be solved before Joey can even hope that his broken family might somehow come back together—if only it doesn’t pull him apart first. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
HANUKKAH! By Roni Schotter
Winner of the National Jewish Book Award, Hanukkah! follows one family’s celebration of the holiday, from eating latkes and spinning the dreidel, to singing prayers and lighting the menorah. With sweet rhyming text and warm illustrations, this is the perfect way to celebrate the festival of lights. (Little, brown Books For Young Readers)
I was excited to recently see the fascinating-sounding variation-on-Camus by Kamel Daoud, Meursault, contre-enquête, make the first cuts of both the Goncourt and the Renaudot -- the two leading French literary prizes.
Warming up for those, the book has now picked up two prizes in quick succession: the Prix François Mauriac (not to be confused with ... the Prix François Mauriac (seriously, guys ? I mean ... seriously ?)) and the Prix des 5 continents (see also, for example, Algerian writer wins world French literature prize).
If a US/UK publisher hasn't pre-empted this yet ... more fools you be -- this property is hot, and the price is only going up.
The concept alone should be enough to sell it, but apparently it's actually good, too.
And now: prize-winning, too.
For Olivia Bentley, Lucky Harbor is more than the town where she runs her new vintage shop. It’s the place where folks are friendly to strangers-and nobody knows her real name. Olivia does a good job of keeping her past buried, not getting too cozy with anyone . . . until she sees a man drowning. Suddenly she’s rushing into the surf, getting up close and personal with the hottest guy she’s ever laid hands on.
Charter boat captain Cole Donovan has no problem with a gorgeous woman throwing her arms around his neck in an effort to “save” him. In fact, he’d like to spend a lot more time skin-to-skin with Olivia. He’s just not expecting that real trouble is about to come her way. Will it bring her deeper into Cole’s heart, or will it be the end of Olivia’s days in little Lucky Harbor?
New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures. You can learn more about Jill at: JillShalvis.com Twitter @jillshalvis
HE’S SO FINE is available in mass market paperback, ebook and audio book formats wherever books are sold
Put on your silly hats, all you adults reading picture books to young ones. Start reconnecting with your inner child and get your best imitative voices ready for a VERY SPECIAL picture book read!
B.J. Novak, known for his work on NBC’s Emmy Award winning series, The Office, in which he wrote, acted, directed and was executive producer, has come up with a very imaginative “NO PICTURE” picture book. HUH??
Now wait, before you rush to judgment and say, “Now how will THAT hold the interest of my wiggly squiggly tot, I say trust me. IT WILL. But a lot depends on YOU! Feeling the pressure yet? Wait!
Mr. Novak’s premise, and it’s a good one, is that it explains to kids how picture reads work. Namely, it states that the picture book reading adult MUST SAY EVERYTHING THAT IS ON THE PAGE! NO MATTER WHAT!
Intriguing, no? YES!!!
It Is If the plain black words on a pure white page are filled with nonsensical phrases and words the adult reader is COMPELLED to voice and the pressure is on YOU to make it, well, WORK!
You, the reader will find yourself voicing phrases in a sing song fashion like:
“GLUG GLUG GLUG
MY FACE IS A BUG
I EAT ANTS
Mr. Novak cleverly has arranged an alternately outraged and aghast running dialogue that the reader voices to himself “sotto voce”, as he is forced to say the silly and the sensational stream of consciousness mouthings of the author.
A song? I thought this was
going to be a serious book!
Do I really have to sing a —
Whereby the reader immediately launches into the aforementioned ditsy ditty! Actually, it’s very FREEING, moms and dads and grandparents, too.
Mr. Novak has gotten the creative power of a child’s imagination to work overtime here, in that with NO pictures to form the images, children are free to come up with their OWN.
And let’s face it, as we older, more ahem, “sophisticated readers” pick up a tome, isn’t THAT what WE DO! WE imagined what Scarlett and Rhett looked like, we pictured the pinched persona of Scrooge as he stalked about his money changing hole, and what the RING actually looked like as we read “The Lord of the Rings”. I pictured Gandalf EXACTLY like Sir Ian McKellen!
B. J. Novak has given our children a head start in imagining WHAT is on the written page AND WE ADULT READERS are allowed in on the journey with our best Robin Williams voices. Not to put too sentimental a point on it, but Robin would have done a heck of a job reading this book to kids on audio. I can just hear the laughter as he launched into, “I am a ROBOT MONKEY.” The possibilities for mimicry are endless, parents.
Thankfully, I know I can say BONK with conviction to my 3, 4 and 5 year olds at Story time. My GA-WOCKO needs WORK! Can’t wait to give it a GO!!! Please do the same with your young ones!!
I have had the release date for The Farmer and the Clown on my calendar for months. This was a book I was excited about and one that I wanted to make sure to get right away. Well, I received a review copy of the book last week and loved it even more than I thought I would!
The book (by the amazing Marla Frazee) tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a farmer and a clown. And can I say that the clown is so adorable! Happy and fun on every page. I fell in love with this book on the first read and everyone I had it too squeals or "aw"s while reading. This week, we read it twice in the classroom. I purchased the kindle edition so that we could read it on the screen. I am so glad I did this because the details in the illustrations, some that I missed during my first few reads, are critical and would have been so hard for kids to see without the projection. This book is simple, but it leaves the reader with so much to think and talk about. And it leaves the reader with a feeling of joy.
I have said many times on this blog that I LOVE wordless books. This is pretty new for me as I've learned to love them in the last 5-6 years. This is by far, one of my favorites. I love the characters and I am amazed at how well they are each developed in this wordless book. I like the story and the characters and the art. I love Marla Frazee and have yet to read one of her books that I didn't fall in love with. This one is definitely one of my Caldecott hopefuls.
On Saturday, 20th September 2014, Portia Dery organised a programme to inculcate reading and writing into the youngsters of today. The programme was dubbed “A Fun Day for Reading and Writing”. It took place at the Northern Regional Library in the Tamale Metropolis and was well patronized. Many speakers were invited to interact with the children, including myself. In Africa, many know the safest place to keep a treasure is in a book because people do not like to read. This is what Portia Dery seeks to curb. A very noble gesture by the young writer and blogger. Here are some of the moments.
The children enjoyed the reading and learning moments, played to their satisfaction and drank the official Ghanaian drink Soobolo with pineapple taste. In all, it was a successful event. Congratulations Portia Dery for following through your good vision.
I don’t do all that many trendwatch posts on this site, if only because it’s impossible to keep track of them all. One minute you’re seeing tons of picture books involving whales. Another minute you’re noticing more than one book about encouraging your pet to become atheist (see this and this). If you do notice such things you are inclined to put your discovery into some sort of context. What do atheist children’s books say about the state of the world today? How do we equate whales with ourselves? That sort of thing.
First off, it was early in the year when I noticed two books with those coincidental similarities you sometimes find in our field. Every year there will be some titles that resemble one another by complete coincidence. At the beginning of this year they were Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin and Bird by Crystal Chan. The similarities weren’t overly obvious but they were there. They both slot into that “A stranger comes to town” plotline. Here’s a plot summary for Loftin’s book:
It doesn’t seem right that a twelve-year-old boy would carry around a guilt as deep and profound as Little John’s. But when you feel personally responsible for the death of your little sister, it’s hard to let go of those feelings. It doesn’t help matters any that John has to spend the summer helping his dad clear brush for the richest man in town, a guy so extravagant, the local residents just call him The Emperor. It’s on one of these jobs that John comes to meet and get to know The Emperor’s next door neighbor, Gayle. About the age of his own sister when she died, Gayle’s a foster kid who prefers sitting in trees in her own self-made nest to any other activity. But as the two become close friends, John notices odd things about the girl. When she sings it’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before, and she even appears to possibly have the ability to heal people with her voice. It doesn’t take long before The Emperor becomes aware of the treasure in his midst. He wants Gayle’s one of a kind voice, and he’ll do anything to have it. The question is, what does John think is more important: His family’s livelihood or the full-throated song of one little girl?
And here’s the publisher plot summary for Chan’s:
Jewel never knew her brother Bird, but all her life she has lived in his shadow. Her parents blame Grandpa for the tragedy of their family’s past; they say that Grandpa attracted a malevolent spirit—a duppy—into their home. Grandpa hasn’t spoken a word since. Now Jewel is twelve, and she lives in a house full of secrets and impenetrable silence. Jewel is sure that no one will ever love her like they loved Bird, until the night that she meets a mysterious boy in a tree. Grandpa is convinced that the boy is a duppy, but Jewel knows that he is something more. And that maybe—just maybe—the time has come to break through the stagnant silence of the past.
Both stories involve a dead sibling and a family’s ability (or inability) to cope after the fact. Bird wasn’t quite as reliant as magical realism as far as I could tell, but there was a distinct mystery about it. And, of course, the idea of children as birds, for good or for ill.
Later in the year more bird books started cropping up. When Beyond the Laughing Sky by Michelle Cuevas appeared it has some striking similarities to Nightingale’s Nest as well. The plot summary reads:
Ten-year-old Nashville doesn’t feel like he belongs with his family, in his town, or even in this world. He was hatched from an egg his father found on the sidewalk and has grown into something not quite boy and not quite bird. Despite the support of his loving parents and his adoring sister, Junebug, Nashville wishes more than anything that he could join his fellow birds up in the sky. After all, what’s the point of being part bird if you can’t even touch the clouds?
Far more of a magical realism title, the book takes the idea of a bird-child to the next level. This one has actually hatched from an egg and has a beak.
And none of this even counts books like Nest by Esther Ehrlich which involves birdwatching in some capacity. It’s a very different kind of title, but it fits with this overall theme.
I suppose that in the end birds are perfect little metaphor receptacles. Whatever the case, they yield some pretty darn interesting books.
Once while staying as a guest at the estate of Walter Fawkes, J.M.W. Turner was asked to paint a watercolor of a British man-of-war.
His process of painting was extraordinary. According to an eyewitness, "He began by pouring wet paint onto the paper till it was saturated. He tore, he scratched, he scrubbed at it in a kind of frenzy and the whole thing was chaos -- but gradually, and as if by magic the lovely ship, with all its exquisite minutia, came into being, and by luncheon time the drawing was taken down in triumph."
Although Canada-based, the folks behind the Cundill Prize in Historical Literature know a loonie is just a loonie and so offer their pay-out in real money: US dollars [I kid, I kid; please -- no e-mails/protests/boycotts] -- and, at 75,000 of them, they lay claim to the title of: "the most lucrative international award for a nonfiction book" -- well, according to the Toronto Star, where they announce this year's shortlist (which isn't yet available at the official site, sigh ...).
Six titles -- and one of them is actually one I've been making my way through (though haven't managed to review yet) -- a title in translation, no less: David Van Reybrouck's Congo (see the HarperCollins publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).