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1. Kristin Halbrook, author of EVERY LAST PROMISE, on avoiding 'easy' choices for characters

We're pleased to have Kristin Halbrook stop by to share more about her latest novel EVERY LAST PROMISE.

Kristin, tell us about your inspiration for writing EVERY LAST PROMISE.

My inspirations were, unfortunately, all over the place. Every time a town was up in arms because of a sexual assault, I was inspired. Every time a rape survivor was vilified, I was inspired. Every time a school or community backed a rapist or twisted processes to ensure he, for example, was still able to play sports, I was inspired. But I was also inspired by friends and colleagues who presented me with tough questions and ideas that made me think harder and deeper than I was, before. Stephanie Kuehn and Christa Desir, in particular, were wonderful for that.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

Every scene in which Kayla didn’t “do” something was a hard scene to write. Because yes, as a human, I wanted her to act, and act quickly. I wanted her to choose the “right” thing, without having to think about it. But as an author who wanted even more to dig deeply into the experiences a person like Kayla might have, I knew “easy” choices didn’t exist. I particularly love the scenes with Kayla and her mom, and I’m particularly proud of the last line of the book (which I won’t spoil, here ☺).

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

I think readers would also love SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson, and ALL THE RAGE by Courtney Summers.

What do you hope readers will take away from EVERY LAST PROMISE?

By the end of the book, I hope readers will think more deeply about what it means to be a hero, what it means to hold onto secrets, and what it means to give those secrets up. I hope they’ll think about how pervasive and widespread rape culture is, and how the effects of it are rippling. And I hope, too, they’ll be more willing to stand up for rape survivors, be good friends, and also grow their empathy for the variety of reasons survivors don’t speak up about their assaults.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Every Last Promise
by Kristin Halbrook
Paperback
HarperTeen
Released 4/21/2015

Perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson and Gayle Forman, Every Last Promise is a provocative and emotional novel about a girl who must decide between keeping quiet and speaking up after witnessing a classmate's sexual assault.

Kayla saw something at the party that she wasn't supposed to. But she hasn't told anyone. No one knows the real story about what happened that night--about why Kayla was driving the car that ran into a ditch after the party, about what she saw in the hours leading up to the accident, and about the promise she made to her friend Bean before she left for the summer.

Now Kayla's coming home for her senior year. If Kayla keeps quiet, she might be able to get her old life back. If she tells the truth, she risks losing everything--and everyone--she ever cared about.

Purchase Every Last Promise at Amazon
Purchase Every Last Promise at IndieBound
View Every Last Promise on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

When Kristin Halbrook was little, she wanted to be a writer, the President of the USA or the first female NFL quarterback. Despite being able to throw a wicked spiral, she didn't really grow to the size needed for the NFL. Then, as she got older and studied more, she came to realize there were better ways to effect positive change than becoming president. The first one, however, stuck. Even when Kristin was pursuing other dreams, she always took time to write here and there. NOBODY BUT US was published by HarperChildren's in 2013.

When she's not writing or reading (which is what she does all day, in all of my work), she's spending time with pixies, her Mad Scot soulmate, and one grumpy cocker spaniel; traveling across oceans and time; cooking and baking up a storm and watching sunsets and waves crash on the beach. She currently lives, loves and explores in The Emerald City, though she occasionally make wispy, dream-like plans to move to New York, Paris or a Scottish castle one day (if just temporarily). You can reach her at kristinhalbrook@gmail.com.


What did you think of our interview with Kristin Halbrook, author of EVERY LAST PROMISE? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Martina, Jocelyn, Shelly, Jan, Lisa, Susan, and Erin

0 Comments on Kristin Halbrook, author of EVERY LAST PROMISE, on avoiding 'easy' choices for characters as of 4/26/2015 6:39:00 AM
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2. Publishing in ... Kenya

       Always fun to see the local complaints -- though admittedly it's also a bit depressing to see such problems and issues appear to be universal -- as in The Standard Abenea Ndago notes there are Few arguments that publishers and editors will never win.
       Ndago doesn't mince words:

The universe of locust feeding on the grass of Kenyan literature is presided over by a clueless generation of publisher CEOs that is probably a hundred times more traditional than the old people they usually accuse of this disease.
       And:
We did not initially know it, but it should now be clear that the second biggest stumbling block to the growth of Kenyan literature -- second only to State House -- is the Kenyan publisher.

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3. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #429: Featuring Charles Santoso


– From Sean Ferrell’s I Don’t Like Koala
(Click to see spread in its entirety)



 


– From Jessica Young’s Spy Guy
(Click to enlarge)


 

I’ve got a review over at BookPage of Sean Ferrell’s I Don’t Like Koala (Atheneum, April 2015), illustrated by Charles Santoso. That is here, and I’ve got some art from the book here today at 7-Imp.

To boot, I’ve got some illustrations from another Santoso-illustrated book, Jessica Young’s Spy Guy, coming to bookshelves in May from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the story of a very loud, very bumbly spy and his “Chief” (a.k.a. his dad). Looks like the Spy Guy illustrations were created digitally, and the Koala illustrations were colored digitally — but originally created in pencil. There’s a definite difference in the two; there’s more texture, for one thing, in the Koala illustrations, and the Spy Guy illustrations channel more of a traditional cartoon vibe, which is fitting for this light and fun slapstick story.

Santoso, who lives in Australia, is an animation-studio concept artist/art director by day and illustrator by night! Here’s a bit more art from both books. Enjoy. …


 

Art from Sean Ferrell’s I Don’t Like Koala:


 


(Click to see spread in its entirety)


 


(Click to enlarge)


 



 

Art from Jessica Young’s Spy Guy:


 


“So Spy Guy went to Headquarters to see the Chief. ‘Chief!’ he said. ‘Tell me the secret to spying!’ ‘Spy Guy,’ said the Chief, ‘that you must discover for yourself.
But if you seek to sneak, try not to speak.'”

(Click to enlarge)



 


“Spy Guy put on his brand-new shoes. He didn’t make a sound as he crept through town. But … everyone saw him coming.”
(Click to enlarge)


 



 


 

I DON’T LIKE KOALA. Text copyright © 2015 by Sean Ferrell. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Charles Santoso. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York.

SPY GUY: THE NOT-SO-SECRET AGENT. Text copyright © 2015 by Jessica Young. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Charles Santoso. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston.

* * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

I’m typing this while listening to President Obama’s remarks at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, and it’s funny stuff. (The Anger Translator made me laugh outloud.) My kicks 1-7 will be that — and, selfishly, I want to hear the rest of it, so I’m off! But tell me …

What are YOUR kicks this week?

1 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #429: Featuring Charles Santoso, last added: 4/26/2015
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4. The Trees by Philip Larkin

The Trees The trees are coming into leaf Like something almost being said; The recent buds relax and spread,  Their greenness is a kind of grief. Is it that they are born again And we grow old? No, they die too. Their yearly trick of looking new Is written down in rings of grain. Yet still the unresting castles thresh In fullgrown thickness every May. Last year is dead, they seem to say,

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5. Murder on the Thirty-First Floor review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Per Wahlöö's Murder on the Thirty-First Floor -- a recent re-translation of his 1964 novel (originally published in English as The Thirty-First Floor, in 1967).

       Wahlöö is of course best known for his Martin Beck series, co-written with his wife, Maj Sjöwall, but he also wrote several novels on his own, including this one, the first in his Inspector Jensen diptych.
       In the US Vintage Crime/Black Lizard have re-issued five of his solo efforts -- I had previously reviewed The Generals -- and this one was certainly worth resurrecting (and re-translating).

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6. vivid 1-2-8

vivid 1-2-8 by dibujandoarte
vivid 1-2-8, a photo by dibujandoarte on Flickr.

i'm trying to turn things that I feel unpleasant​ or as a dead space-time
into something vivid, like the 1st, 2nd and 8th definitions from "the free
dictionary"

vivid (ˈvɪvɪd)
*adj*
*1. *(of a colour) very bright; having a very high saturation or purity;
produced by a pure oralmost pure colouring agent
*2. *brilliantly coloured: vivid plumage.
*3. *conveying to the mind striking realism, freshness, or trueness to life;
graphic: a vividaccount.
*4. *(of a recollection, memory, etc) remaining distinct in the mind
*5. *(of the imagination, etc) prolific in the formation of lifelike images
*6. *making a powerful impact on the emotions or senses: a vivid feeling of
shame.
*7. *uttered, operating, or acting with vigour: vivid expostulations.
*8. *full of life or vitality: a vivid personality.

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7. Jessi Kirby, author of THINGS WE KNOW BY HEART, on setting up a little work station in the library

THINGS WE KNOW BY HEART is the latest novel by Jessi Kirby, and we're honored to have her here to tell us more about it.

Jessi, what was your inspiration for writing THINGS WE KNOW BY HEART?

The initial idea for this book actually came from an article I'd read about the concept of Cellular Memory--that is, the idea that some essence of a donor is retained within a donated organ, particularly the heart. The story was going to be much more focused on whether that was true in this case. But when I started researching donor/recipient relationships, I became more interested in those dynamics--why some write, or want to meet, and why some don't. That's where Colton came from.

How long did you work on THINGS WE KNOW BY HEART?

Jessi's writing set-up!
It took me close to 2 years, all told, to write this book. I also work full time as a middle school librarian and have a family, so my writing time is limited. The good thing about that is when I do have writing time, I am extremely focused.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I need quiet, so I usually go to the library to work.  I set up my little work station with everything I need so I won't have reason to get up. Usually that includes coffee, water, Cadbury mini eggs, if they're available. I also have a little talisman that sits next to me for each book. This one was a little blue heart that I got at Changing Hands Book Store in Arizona.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Things We Know by Heart
by Jessi Kirby
Hardcover
HarperTeen
Released 4/21/2015

In this unforgettable teen romance that fans of Sarah Dessen and Susane Colasanti will devour, Quinn Sullivan falls for the recipient of her boyfriend's donated heart, forming an unexpected connection that will leave readers utterly breathless.

After Quinn's boyfriend, Trent, dies in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the fragments of her now-unrecognizable life. But whoever received Trent's heart has mysteriously remained silent. The essence of a person, Quinn has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent's, then in a way she still has a piece of him.

Risking everything to find peace once and for all, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn't want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they're connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she's falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she's lost . . . and all that remains at stake.

Purchase Things We Know by Heart at Amazon
Purchase Things We Know by Heart at IndieBound
View Things We Know by Heart on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessi Kirby is a former English teacher and librarian. She lives in Orange County, CA with her husband and two kids, where she writes stories and runs the beach every day. Well, almost every day.

You can contact Jessi at jessi@jessikirby.com




What did you think of our interview with Jessi Kirby, author of THINGS WE KNOW BY HEART? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Martina, Jocelyn, Shelly, Jan, Lisa, Susan, and Erin

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8. Jungle Jaguars at Scribble Kids!

We had the fiercest artists around today at Peninsula Art Academy!

IMG_5564

By Marymaking

I got my jungle jaguar inspiration from Mary Making.  She created her own jungle jaguar using paper collage and colored pencils. I love the mixed media approach, but we didn’t have time for watercolors to dry today.
I decided to go a step further and teach the kids how to create a foreground, middle and background using collage elements. But first, we created our jaguar close-ups with a guided drawing that explored blending and shading. So proud of how much the kids absorbed!

 

jaguar sketch

Maura’s jaguar drawing

Next the kids cut out their jaguars, and I gave them big construction paper to create their ‘background’ rain forest.

We used oil pastels and colored pencils to draw our jungle scene. Then we added the ‘middle ground’ or the middle of our scene, by collaging paper leaves and water. Finally we added the ‘foreground’ of our pictures, and glued our super-big jaguars and leaves in front.

The kids used their imaginations with the rain forest scenery, but we also had reference images for inspiration!

sk4

Dexter’s jungle jaguars are fighting!

Thatcher's Jungle Jaguar

By Thatcher, age 7

Jungle Jaguar

By Maura, age 6

Jungle Jaguars

By Dexter, age 10

The post Jungle Jaguars at Scribble Kids! appeared first on Scribble Kids.

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9. The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander | Book Review

This is a book young people will probably want to read more than once, both for the themes in the story and for the author’s storytelling. It will appeal to middle grade readers who like sports – especially basketball – and coming of age stories.

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10. Reading & Writing Connections: Getting to Know a Character on the Outside and the Inside

“Writers,” Ali said as she leaned in close to teach her second graders, “I’ve got an important tip for you about your realistic fiction characters. You’ve done such a great job describing what they are… Continue reading

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11. An Appreciation -British Creator Ben R. Dilworth




There are UK comic creators who deserve to get far more recognition than they do. I have highlighted some of these in the past but  it is worth mentioning one other.  Ben R. Dilworth.

Now the man inked over my pencils "in the day" (which is what we call the period 1986-1990) on strips such as Liz & Jen: Coming Out and D-Gruppe: Revenge of the Ice Queen.

He was also self-publishing Small Press comics under his Penguinflight banner and seemed to be  contributing to every small press comic going -Bum Comic, Creepy Crawlies, Zine Ager, Hardware -it is a bloody long list and the legendary Picasso Cafe must never be forgotten!

Neither do I forget Dilworth stapling Black Tower Adventure issues across his knee at the old Bath marts.  Nor the experimental acetate, spray-painted covers for Previews Comic or a dozen other mad things.

We ought to, really, forget the most famous and now nearly lost legendary visit of Dilworth and Andrew Hope (who recently worked for Marvel Comics) to Bristol.  The drunken outrages committed -including throwing up over the window of comic shop, Forever People, or the very long discussion between the two on the movie A Company of Wolves which kind of resulted in the 0300 hours incident of me wielding a bread-knife......yeah, let's forget that.
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-EdtjHCbkzb4/UY2EFfqlh8I/AAAAAAAAVKQ/BB3HZJ50Yfc/s320/Taboo+2.jpg




Anyhow, The Tall Man wrote and drew for comics such as Fantaco's Taboo, Eternity Comics Killing Stroke and Trident Comics (PLEASE no one mention Trident to Paul Ashley Brown!!) The Shadowmen written by some Scots bloke...uh, Mark Millar.

He can also claim to be, as the artist, co-creator of Pete Wisdom, initially created by Warren Ellis and drawn by Ben , in a pitch for "Electric Angel" for publisher Trident Comics.

Didn't know all that did you?


http://www.newkadia.com/Covers/L/K/Killing%20Stroke/killingstroke1.jpg

Here are some of his credits from a data base I just stumbled across at http://comicbookdb.com/creator.php?ID=8028

Writer:
Killing Stroke (1991)

Penciller:

Killing Stroke (1991) The Shadowmen (1990) Taboo (1988)

Inker:

Gore Shriek (1986) Gore Shriek (1990) Killing Stroke (1991) The Shadowmen (1990) Shriek (1989) Taboo (1988) Trident (1989)

Letterer:

Gore Shriek (1990)
Killing Stroke (1991)
And over recent years The Tall One has had work published by Black Tower -including his Award winning Haiku (in English), Aesop's Fables, Purple Hood, Runestone, Chronos:The Watchman -and much, much more that has ensured Black Tower titles such as Adventure were able to carry on after a rough patch.

The man is a fecking comic book genius.  WFT is he not working full time in comics and getting paid??!
Calming down a bit....deep breath.  Seriously, check out the Black Tower lulu.com store front and you'll find Dilworth work.  Maybe one day he'll get a creator byline for Pete Wisdom, hmm?
From myself I'd like to offer him a big THANK YOU.

You wait, I'll make him famous yet.  Poor but famous!
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/ab/63/06/ab630608a98547798761b792f5043fd3.jpg

And I went and forgot Loaded number 1 from 1991 in which I wrote and pencilled Graveyard  and Dilworth  inked and lettered!

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12. Week in Review: April 19-25

Miss Marjoribanks. Margaret Oliphant. 1866. 512 pages. [Source: Bought] 
Dick Whittington and His Cat. Told and cut in linoleum by Marcia Brown. 1950. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]
Board Book: The Babies and Doggies Book. John Schindel and Molly Woodward. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Board Book: This Little Piggy. A Finger & Toes Nursery Rhyme Book. Natalie Marshall. 2015. [May] Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Board book: Red Light, Green Light. Yumi Heo. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 20 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Jampires. Sarah McIntyre. Illustrated by David O'Connell. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Side by Side. Rachel Bright. Illustrated by Debi Gliori. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. Dr. Seuss. 1960. Random House. 60 pages. [Source: Library]
Ramona's World. Beverly Cleary. 1999. HarperCollins. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
Ginger Pye. Eleanor Estes. 1950. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 306 pages. [Source: library]
Bo at Iditarod Creek. Kirkpatrick Hill. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2014. Henry Holt. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
Green for Danger. Christianna Brand. 1944. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]
Dragon Flight. Jessica Day George. Bloomsbury USA. 272 pages. [Source: Library]
Hippos Are Huge. Jonathan London. Illustrated by Matthew Trueman. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis. Devin Brown. 2013. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary. J.D. Greear. Foreword by Timothy Keller. 2011. B&H Books. 266 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. C.S. Lewis. 1950. HarperCollins. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]


This week's recommendation(s):

I loved, loved, LOVED Miss Marjoribanks. I also really enjoyed rereading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Anniversary Rituals

Every year, Stan and I celebrate our anniversary by attending the Inman Park Festival and buying art. We've been married 14 years, so we've gathered some nice items over time. Today we found our last festival treasure before we start some new traditions in Scotland. It's a lovely (little) print by Andrew Kosten of Gum Pal Press. I adored all his work, so it was hard to decide. Stan, of course, leaned toward the piece with wheels. Isn't he great? Click here or the image to go see more of Andrew's work (and maybe buy some for yourself)!

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14. Week in review April 26, 2015




Last week in the WIR, Jennifer R. Donohue said 
"But really, I want to hear more about the Buttonweezers, et al." 
which reminded me to tell you all about a fabulous moment of query serendipity! I got a query from a writer named Buttonweezer! Spelled differently of course, but still. I fell upon her query with glee and told her of the Buttonweezer clan that lives here on the blog.  Even more interesting: her first name was Janet! This falls under the truth is stranger than fiction category heading!

Dena Pawling added some interesting info to her bio with us:
Besides that description of how my husband asked me out on our first date, one of my earliest memories is of his car-at-the-time, a Triumph Spitfire. All you car types are groaning now. I don't remember where we went on this date, but while he drove me home in the rain, the generator caught fire. So, wearing a dress, I helped him push the car (in the rain) into a gas station. He says he was surprised I still agreed to go out with him. I always thought our dates were like an adventure.

One of these days I'll tell you about how my car caught on fire when I had Sue Grafton with me. Her next book is the X in the series. I'm lucky it's not X for eXtinguish.

bjmuntain offered up two links on publishing rights. I'm not going to reprint them here because the first one was full of errors. (Her later comment fixes the link to the second one)  When you're researching stuff about publishing PLEASE consider the source.  The first link was written by a writer trying to be helpful. I'm all for helpful writers but it's clear to me this one didn't know much about contracts.  
The SECOND link (publishinglawyer.com)  looks like correct information.

Then bj further asked:
I spent a lot of time last night checking out submissions guidelines, payment and rights bought for several magazines. Many of them say they buy First North American Serial Rights, or First World Rights, or First Electronic Rights. Or even a combination of those. A couple bought First Australian Serial Rights. One or two bought first English language serial rights.

So maybe I'm dense, and if I am, I'd love to have it explained to me.

You're not dense. You're reading what the site says they buy.

Here's the horrible truth: they don't know what they're doing!  Contracts from magazines and smaller publishers are NOTORIOUS quagmires. I could show you some that make sharks weep. I see a LOT of these since one rule here at the Reef is that no client signs a publishing contract of ANY KIND without me looking at it.  Even if I didn't sell it; ESPECIALLY if I didn't sell it in fact.

Some contracts are just blatant rights grabs (university presses wanting copyright for published thesis) and some are a mishmash of terms that fail to cover things like the duration of exclusivity.

If you REALLY want to know about contracts join the National Writers Union or the Author's Guild and get their information on contracts.



And I'm really sad that the only thing *I* get on Capcha is "I am not a robot." I am not so very many things, I wonder how they came to decide this one the one thing I shouldn't be in order to comment.



On Monday I answered a letter from a writer that left me horrified. His agent pretty much revealed his own idiocy by submitting to editors with the assumption they'd pass it along if they weren't the right choice; used a mis-leading pitch; and gotten the category wrong.

It's the trifecta that demonstrates idiocy; we've all done one or more of the above, but I hope to garamond, never on purpose!

Lisa Bodenheim asked the question I should have answered:
Wow. So what's an author to do? Surely the author is in a contract with that agent. If the author does not appreciate what is happening, they can have a direct conversation with their agent. But if the agent doesn't get it or if the author remains unsatisfied with their agent, then what?

You fire the agent. 



MB Owen asked:
Can an agent "un-deliberately" mislead? It sounded intentional, trying to make the pitch fit with an editor's tastes while knowing his client's book was something else.

This is an interesting question, and one I actually know something about right now. I did not "deliberately mislead" an editor about a book he bought on proposal but it was clear that what I had loved about the story, and talked about in my pitch, had NOT made it in to the first draft of the book. 

The author and I realized this together, and actually decided she'd rewrite to incorporate more of what I'd seen in the story. That's why it's the trifecta of errors that is cause for alarm. I not only didn't get the category and editor wrong; I sold the book.


Christina Seine brought up another good point:
This makes me wonder if that rep has a bad rep among editors. Because it sounded like he really pooched it, to more than one editor. I bet that's not a first. So what I imagine then are editors receiving pitches from Agent Stu Pidd and going, "Not this guy again! Hey guys, did I tell you about the time he pitched a contemporary YA as historical romance? I don't think he ever even read the book!"

Under those circumstances, you're lucky if anyone reads the guy's correspondence at all. Yikes.

You're right: they DON'T read the submissions from agents they think are idiots.  I've heard from MANY editors about "schmagents" who are permanently barred from serious consideration.  It's one thing to send something an editor doesn't like, or doesn't think can sell. It's another thing entirely to get EVERYTHING (the trifecta again) wrong.

But mostly schmagents are the ones who don't have a clue how publishing really works. The good news? If your agent is one of them, your book is probably still submittable in that the editors on the submission list never saw it.


REJourneys asked:
Though, is it possible for editors to turn down books because they don't like the agent? I assume that is another business relationship that needs to be at least workable. Knowing that certain agents (well, agent) are misleading you the first time would make me question if I ever want to read something they have again.

Yes it's not just possible, I know it happens. It's not for misleading pitches or getting categories wrong though. It's cause the agents are impossible to work with. Things like insulting the editor during negotiations, or using foul language in email (even I, known dropper of the F-bomb do NOT do this!) or being intractable about things that can't be changed (or dim witted about how to ask for changes.)

The problem here is, as a writer, you'll never get this information. I can't tell you who are on those lists; I don't know more than a few names, all of which were revealed to me in total and complete confidence, usually in person, far from any publishing ears.  In other words, never even written down.  


Dena Pawling made me laugh out loud with this one:
And excuse my woodland creature brain, but thanks for clarifying this line - “I spend time talking to them on the phone, over lunch, on Twitter, and in other odd places (like conferences)....” After last week's discussion, when I read “in other odd places” I pictured you sliding your pitch under the restroom stall door.

I very rarely slide mss under bathroom stall doors when I'm meeting editors. Under their martini glass, you betcha!



On Tuesday we talked about withdrawing a novel on submission if you think another one is a better fit.

Pharosian asked this:
Wow. That's one situation I never even thought about. So if I sign with Fabulous Agent and she sells my cozy mystery (or mysteries), and then sometime down the road I write a slasher (or some other project FA finds distasteful), is FA obligated to try to sell it? And if FA doesn't want to, what's her recourse? Fire me as a client?

No, I'm not obligated to work on anything but that's not really the right question to ask.  When I talk to a potential client I ask about the kinds of books the writer wants to work on in the future. If the answer is "well, this cozy series is great but my true love is writing romance" I am NOT going to sign the client no matter how much I love the mystery series, because the author needs an agent who can do both kinds of books effectively. I'm probably not that agent. The slithery force of nature that is Barbara Poelle probably is.

Of course, if a client develops a sudden interest in a category I don't do well, it's too late not to sign them. In those cases I call in favors from friends (Brooks Sherman for example sold Sean Ferrell's picture book on my behalf) or learn the category (I have a middle grade novel on submission now.)

And it's entirely possible that if a client's work shifts to a new category, she gets traded to the other team for a draft round choice to be named later.


Sadly brianrschwarz earns a lifelong residence on Carkoon with this one:
I hate to say it QOTKU, but you might be right.

Then tried to cancel his ticket with this:
After flipping back and forth, I eventually decided to take QOTKU up on her advice and sent my email an hour ago. After all, if it failed miserably, I'd just blame my writing career on Janet. ;)

But to my surprise, it turns out sharks are sharks for a reason. TFFA responded within the last hour and recommended I leave the bloody book in question on the table, but reply with my query and full for my YA novel. I suppose then if she hates the query for YA book, she can still read bloody mess with renewed fortitude and a more accurate expectation.

So basically, I owe Janet a drink. Let me know when you're in the Midwest.

Midwest? Is that near midtown? Cause if you can't get there on the subway…

Turns out Christina Seine will be joining brianrschwarz on the trip to Carkoon.
 Also, apropos of nothing but Twitter, I was not surprised to learn that Janet is a pimp. I kind of always pictured her as one, in a John Travolta suit, leopard skin coat, flat-brimmed hat, heaps of gold jewelry, base thumping in the background, and of course the razor-sharp teeth. SO badass.

bjmuntain had an interesting question about withdrawn mss
A question just occurred to me, while reading through comments again. If an author withdraws a submitted manuscript for X reason, would it be possible - or even ethical - for the agent to decide that X isn't going to bother her and read the manuscript anyway?

I'm not saying 'ethical' as in morally right. I mean professionally ethical. Is it something that is seen as wrong in the publishing industry? Or is it really just a morally indifferent choice? I can see it going either way.

I think if an author asks you not to read a manuscript, you don't read it. From a purely pragmatic time management point of view, it makes no sense to read something if it's not on submission. I think from a business practices standpoint you really do want to convey to an author that if they ask you to do something, you honor their wishes.  I've had clients ask me to do stuff I thought was the wrong choice for their career, but it's THEIR career. I offered my opinion, the client elected to do something else.
I don't think it's morally wrong to read a withdrawn ms, but I don't think it's something I'd do.



 Susan Bonifant summed it up nicely:
My only experience with a hired editor was as a new writer when I would have taken advice from the neighborhood grocer.

It was awful. She was borderline abusive when I disagreed, found ways to charge more than she should have and made me feel like I was lucky to be wasting her time.

I think she may have even suggested a prologue. No, that's not true.

My (embittered) take, now that I would never consider it again, is this:

One, don't do this if you are not feeling strong about yourself as a writer yet. And two, consider whose advice would be more valuable - someone who is paid to find problems, or a beta reader who is going to tell you why they put the book down to get a drink and didn't come back.

And let me add that anyone you work with on your creative projects who makes you feel "lucky to be wasting her time" is not someone you want to work with. The reason for that isn't cause they hurt your feelings, it's cause they don't know what their job is.  Their job is to help you. That's the reason you're paying them. It's entirely possible to be direct, no-nonsense, AND helpful. I have the replies to rejection letters to prove it.



Amy Schaefer asked a good question about what happens NEXT:
Here is my concern. Let's say I hire Editor Redpen to fix my manuscript. She does an excellent job, and as a result of her advice, I sign with Agent Superpants. She sells the MS. Fast forward a year or two, and I'm ready to show Agent Superpants my new manuscript.

The phone rings.
"Hi, Amy, it's Agent Superpants. I've read the new manuscript you sent me."
"Great! How did you like it."
Long pause. "It's... rough."
"Rough."
"Unpolished. Flabby. Your pacing dies completely in chapter four, and doesn't come back until chapter 17. All of your male characters are generic, and your protagonist is unfocused. What happened?"

The writers I work with who hired an editor to help them  both said that it made them better writers. Not just improved the manuscript, but the process itself helped them see what a novel needed. That's really the goal of spending that money: to learn how to do it yourself next time.

BUT, that is also the reason I think hiring an editor to write your query is not a good idea. Writers need to learn  how to draft a solid query, and the only way to do it, is to do it. Sure you can get help on spotting flaws but you yourself should write your query.




Susan Bonifant brought up Grub Street:
I'm not opposed to the idea of paying for a second read. But how and why is it necessary to consider all that is available for 4K, rather than what is essential for far less? Grub Street in Boston for example charges way, WAY less to pair a writer with a completely objective, multi-traditionally published author, often an instructor, in the genre you select, who will tell you exactly where the suckage is from a reader's standpoint.

By sheer happenstance I'm writing the Week In Review here at the Delaware shore and on the next couch over is an agent who will be at Grub Street next week, and what is she doing? Reading manuscript pages from the people she has pitch sessions with. If you're looking for a place to discover the Suck, Grub Street (and other good writing conferences) can be it.

InkStainedWench had an interesting question:
Now I'm curious. Do editors reject a book with a simple "Dear agent, no thanks, have a nice day."

Generally no. They usually give me some feedback which they know I will share with the author.  If things really go wrong, I'll get a phone call and nothing is put in writing. How to share that information is then up to me.
 
Some editors do have form rejection letters. I have no problem with those, but if I get more than three, I know I'm missing the mark pretty completely with what that editor is looking for, and it's time for some digging and reading.

And Donnaeve asked:
 Janet, don't you find it strange not one acquiring editor gave the OP and their agent anyfeedback?

Yup. I'm hesitant to guess as to the reason however since I don't know the book, or the editor submission list.

But as it turns out there WAS some feedback: Matt Adams said
Hi guys -- OP here.

To answer some questions ...

We got some feedback and got passed around the office by three editors, but that was as far as we got. Two seemed close, but in the end decided not to offer. The feedback was diverse -- there was no universal complaint.

My agent has always thought it should be a big book and has told me she'll push it as far as it can be pushed. She's told me she feels confident she could find SOME publisher for it now, but thinks it deserves better -- I think she's more baffled by the lack of success than I am. And while I understand the concept of trunking it, that's hard to do when she's still willing to find it a home. She's not demanding the edit, but she thinks it would be helpful in helping the book become what she thinks it should be. I'm not saying that I'm sure the book is big or even publishable, but I think I owe it to myself (and her) to give it every opportunity I can to succeed. And before I give the wrong impression, my agent is awesome -- she got everyone to read, which was her job as far as I'm concerned. It was my part of the equation that was lacking.

But I think Janet's right in that saying a second read instead of the full edit is the way to go. Or second read then a full edit.

Thanks for the input everyone. I appreciate it.

I think Matt's agent is smart. If the novel isn't working, it's time for a second set of eyes. That's a demonstrable lack of ego, and business savvy there.

Amy Schaefer asked a good question:
Hmm. With 28 rejections but no consensus on what is wrong (or holding you back, or making editors say no), I sincerely wonder what insight any new editor, paid or otherwise, can give you. 28 is a decent sample size; if there were a major fault in your work, I would have expected that feedback to bubble to the surface from multiple sources by now.

Which leaves the paid editor's professional opinion about what is going wrong here. It doesn't sound like you have much to lose in buying a second read, but if there is no particular thing wrong with your book, I wonder how much she can really help you. Maybe your book is just quirky and different and hasn't found the right home yet. Best of luck!

 That's entirely possible, but remember an editor at a publishing house isn't required to tell you what doesn't work in a novel, only if s/he intends to acquire it.  Much like agents in the query queue, "not right for me" is the only required answer.
Editors often times will not say negative things in a "not for me" letter to an agent because CLEARLY the agent feels the book has merit.  "This book has no plot" is not something I'd expect an editor to say to an agent, and yes, I've sent out books where the plot could be found only with a magnifying glass…

brianrschawrz demonstrates he wants to live on Carkoon forever:
You may not always be right,

RobCeres asked a question that I think a lot of writers would ask here:
Oh to have this conundrum! Assuming the publisher is reputable, what is the downside of going both routes? If the publisher wants the book isn't that tremendous ammunition for a query letter? I mean if I was an agent I would love the first line "I am querying you because (whatever the reason is), and INHO (I'm Not a Hobby Outlet) is offering a publishing contract.

And you'll be surprised to learn that having an offer in hand doesn't make you more attractive to an agent. In fact, it can be a problem.
If you turn up with a contract in hand, you'll be thinking your novel is publishable as it stands. And it is: at THIS publisher.
I can't think of a single book I've sold that I didn't have at least one round of edits on before I sent it on submission. Most are three rounds, a couple right now are on Round Ten and Eleven.
Telling an author with a publication offer in hand that their novel isn't ready isn't fun. In fact, it often leads to hard feelings that end in fuck you and flouncing off.
If your novel is terrific, I probably want to take it out for a spin at the larger publishers.  It's hardly ever possible to say to a small publisher "Hey, can you wait on this offer for two months while we see if we can get something better?"  and even harder to say to editors "hey, can you read this really soon cause I have an offer pending from the Carkoon Illuminated Manuscript Society."
This is why agents BEG you to query them first, and publishers second.




JEN Garrett had an interesting piece of advice:
Here's one way to implement Janet's awesome advice about doing your research.
If you want to know whether a publisher sells to libraries, find a title that the publisher has published (there should be a list on their website). Then call your local librarian and ask if they CAN order the book. Make it clear you are not asking them to order it; you just want to know if the publisher is legit.

The reason you want to do this, is because library books are sold through different distributors than a bookstore. But really, you can use this simple test anywhere you want to see your book in print.


And then you guyz just went completely nuts with list of seasons you all enjoy. In other words, the kinds of comments that really make me laugh.



Colin Smith had an interesting turn of phrase here:
1) If your first book is published, as far as an agent is concerned, there's nothing more to be done with it. There's no point trying to get an agent for it, and why would you? It's published already!

I'm going to quibble here: There's a LOT more to be done with a book even after it's published. The problem is there's NO MONEY. My policy is that if I don't sell something I don't take commission. (co-agenting things are the exception). 

If an author comes to me with a book that's under contract, I don't get a commission but I DO end up doing a lot of work on the book because my job is advocating for my author NOT making money. I need to make money so I try to avoid situations where doing my job means I won't make money. 

This situation happens more than you think when you sign a client who has been repped and sold by another agent for previous books; or who has a backlist and no agent.

The conversation then turned to acronyms, and you guyz had some hilarious versions thereof.
That said, the fewer use of acronyms here on the blog the better. Acronyms create a sub-strata of readers, those "in the know" and thus a group of readers who are NOT.

I'd like to keep all of us in one group as much as possible. If you don't get the Carkoon or Buttonweezer references, you can still get value from the blog. If we start abbreviating the important stuff like Original Poster it's harder for new readers to feel welcome.

Speaking of welcome, I'm writing this from the Delaware shore where I've retreated to read requested full manuscripts.  It's been a VERY productive four days let me tell you.

On Thursday, I strolled around the little town and found a terrific bookstore.  One the shelf as I walked in, this greeted me:




On Friday, my companion in world domination and I took a short break and drove to Assateague Island to see the wild ponies.  I grew up loving the Misty of Chincoteague books. Marguerite Henry was the first author I ever met. Her kindness and graciousness to an awestruck, tongue-tied eight year old girl with a red leather autograph book warms me to this day.









Next week is the Edgars so I'll be hanging out with a lot of out of town friends coming in for the festivities.  Not much work gets done  but a good time is had by all.





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15. Library Loot: Fourth Trip in April

New Loot:
  • The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales by Franz Zaver von Schonwerth
  • The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses by Chris Bruno
  • The Sound Of Music Story by Tom Santopietro
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Dr. Seuss's ABC
  • Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book
  • King's Cross by Timothy Keller
  • Ten Apples Up On Top by Dr. Seuss
  • The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss
  • Onion John by Joseph Krumgold 
Leftover Loot:
  • The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck
  • The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas
  • Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas, translated by Richard Pevear
  • Murder at Mullings by Dorothy Cannell
  • Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss
  • Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George
  • Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George
  • Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
  • The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, translated and with notes by Christine Donougher
  • Cursed in the Act by Raymond Buckland
  • The Search for the Red Dragon by James A. Owen
  • The Just City by Jo Walton
  • Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen
  • The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
  • The Indigo King by James A. Owen
  • Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
  • War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation by Cindy Hval
  • Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp
  • Memories Before and After The Sound of Music by Agathe von Trapp
  • Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The Life of P.L. Travers by Valerie Lawson
  • George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I by Miranda Carter
  • The Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War, Peter Englund, translated by Peter Graves.
  • Anastasia and Her Sisters by Carolyn Meyer
  • The Far Side of Evil by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
  • The War that Ended Peace: To Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan
  • Pete the Cat's Groovy Guide to Life by Kimberley and James Dean
  • Who Thinks Evil: A Professor Moriarty Novel by Michael Kurland
  • The Infernal Devices & Others: A Professor Moriarty Omnibus by Michael Kurland
  • The Empress of India: A Professor Moriarty Novel by Michael Kurland
  • The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

      Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.   

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. Social Media Etiquette

What not to do when using social media.


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17. Reminder: Apply to Host the 2016 Arbuthnot Lecture!

Pat Mora Arbuthnot Lecturer

Pat Mora will deliver the 2016 Arbuthnot Lecture (image courtesy of Pat Mora)

ALSC and the 2016 May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture Committee are proud to announce the opening of the application to host the 2016 event featuring award-winning children’s book author and pioneering literacy advocate Pat Mora.

Host site application forms can be downloaded at the Arbuthnot site. Applications are due May 15, 2015. Information about host site responsibilities is included in the application materials. The lecture traditionally is held in April or early May.

Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, Mora grew up bilingual and bicultural. With degrees in English and speech, she was a teacher and university administrator before writing children’s books. Known for her lyrical style, Mora’s poetry and prose have won numerous awards, including a 2005 Belpré Honor Medal for text for “Doña Flor: A Tall Tale of a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart,” published by Knopf Books for Young Readers, and illustrated by Raul Colón. Her generosity for sharing bookjoy, the phrase she coined for the power and pleasure of words, led Mora to launch “Día,” which will observe its 20th anniversary in 2016.

The post Reminder: Apply to Host the 2016 Arbuthnot Lecture! appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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18. The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves – It’s Horse Show Season!

The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba of The Caffeinated Book Reviewer.  This is a weekly meme where we can share news of the week and highlight new books received.

This weekend marked the first horse show of the season.  Typical of a Michigan spring, the weather did not cooperate.  Lows in the 30s, highs in the mid 50s.  It was soooooo cold in the morning!  I opted to dress at the hotel instead of in the changing room at the fairgrounds because the thought of shedding layers in the freezing barn aisle just did not agree with me. 

With all of the construction and accidents, I was so glad that I did decide to treat myself to a little personal time at the Fairfield Inn. It’s only about an hour drive, but the construction traffic added to that significantly, and I didn’t want to have to get up and be on the road by 6:30am to be ready for the 9:00 start time.

So far, my girls are doing a great job.  I let Elsa show Elle in a junior exhibitor driving class, and then I drove her yesterday in the Open class, and she scored a blue ribbon each time.  The championship is later this morning, so hopefully she will continue to shine. 

Pixie was second in both her classes; one of the trainers rode her Friday night, but my girl stalled up and would not go forward before the second canter.  When I rode her, she reversed and cantered instead of reverse and trot, in the same spot!  I don’t know if I overcued her or the overhead door, which is green, freaked her out for some weird, small horsey brain reason, so I will do whatever I can to NOT be ANYWHERE near that door when we have to transition from one gait to another during the championship.  Otherwise, she was really, really good.  She stayed on the rail, a huge problem for us last year, she didn’t keep bobbing her head, and she actually flat walked for me, so all in all, a good show so far.

Check out my current contests!  See the Contest Widget on the Sidebar to enter!

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews to share new additions to our library.  Click here to learn more about it.

New Arrivals at the Café:

Lots of romances because I am under a lot of stress right now.

Tycoon’s Delicious Debt

Bull Rider’s Son

Thunderstruck

To Tempt a Cowgirl

 

His Defiant Princess

Pregnant by the Cowboy CEO

The Cowboy SEAL’s Triplets

Her Knight in the Outback (Library)

A great big thanks to the publishers for their continued support!

What did you get? Please leave links and share!

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19. Planting for Pollinators

I was inspired by one of my own characters to plant a “bee garden,” this spring, and today planted the better part of my wife’s little pocket of prairie with beardtongue, salvia, bee balm, black-eyed susans, coneflowers, thymus, verbena, coreopsis, asclepias, and yarrow. There’s an empty spot for milkweed we’re getting from a neighbor. The stuff in back is prairie grass that’s (mostly) been there for years.

pollinator garden

It doesn’t look like much now, but by mid-summer most of these guys will be 2-4 feet high, in bloom, humming with bees and crawling with caterpillars. My wife even supports this venture though she doesn’t like butterflies, but it will be hard not to be taken in by the potential magic of watching, with our bug-loving boy, a monarch nudging its way out of a chrysalis one late summer morning. Thanks to a book by a local author, he is also expecting bison.


Filed under: Miscellaneous Tagged: bees, gardening, monarchs, native grasses and forbs, phyllis root, plant a pocket of prairie, pollinators

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20. New Adult Fiction Genre - Contemporary Romance - #WriteTip



There is a new genre emerging..."New Adult" fiction for older teens aka college-aged readers. You never stop growing up, but little in the market seems to address the coming-of-age that also happens between the ages of Nineteen to Twenty-six. Life changes drastically once high school is over, you have college, first jobs, first internships, first adult relationships…

Part of the appeal of NA is that the storylines are about characters who are taking on adult responsibilities for the first time without guidance from their parents. And the storylines generally have a heavy romance element. 

Keep this in mind as you revise your wonderful story, New Adult books are mostly about that specific time in every person's life—the time when the apron strings are cut from your parents, you no longer have a curfew, you're experiencing the world for the very first time, in most cases, with innocent eyes. New Adult is this section of your life where you discover who you want to be, what you want to be, and what type of person you will become. This time defines you. This is the time of firsts, the time where you can't blame your parents for your own bad choices. 


An NA character has to take responsibility for their own choices and live with the consequences. Most storylines are about twenty-something (18 to 26) characters living their own lives without any parents breathing down their necks, and learning to solve things on their own as they would in real life. New Adult fiction focuses on switching gears, from depending on our parents to becoming full-fledged, independent adults.

I am a firm believer that if you’re going to write a certain genre that you should read it, too. So I’m going to recommend that you start devouring NA novels to get a real sense and understanding of the genre before you write one.

Here are some great recommendations: https://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult-romance and http://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult and https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/new-adult-romance
 

Just as YA is fiction about teens discovering who they are as a person, New Adult (NA) is fiction about building your own life as an actual adult. As older teen readers discover the joy of the Young Adult genres, the New Adult—demand may increase. This, in turn, would give writers the chance to explore the freedom of a slightly older protagonist (over the age of 18 and out of high school, like the brilliant novel, "BEAUTIFUL DISASTER" by the amazing talents of author, Jamie McGuire) while addressing more adult issues that early 20-year-olds must face.

Older protagonists (basically, college students) are surprisingly rare; in a panel on YA literature at Harvard’s 2008 Vericon, City of Bones author talked about pitching her novel, then about twenty-somethings, as adult fiction. After several conversations, Clare realized she had to choose between adults and teens. She went with teens.

Quote from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press: We are actively looking for great, new, cutting edge fiction with protagonists who are slightly older than YA and can appeal to an adult audience. Since twenty-somethings are devouring YA, St. Martin’s Press is seeking fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an “older YA” or “new adult.” In this category, they are looking for spunky but not stupid, serious but not dull, cutting-edge, supernatural stories.

Quote from Georgia McBride, author (Praefatio) and founder of #YALitChat and publisher at Month9Books: "New Adult is a fabulous idea in theory, and authors seem to be excited about it. But in a world where bookstores shelf by category, to them, it is either  Adult or Young Adult. Some booksellers even call their YA section “teen.” And when you have a character who is over a certain age (19 seems to be the age most consider the start of New Adult), it is received as Adult. In some cases, the designation by publishers causes more confusion than not.
Let’s face it, YA is associated with teens, and at 19, most no longer consider themselves teens. So, it would support the theory of placing these “New Adult” titles in the Adult section. However, with the prevalence of eBook content, it would seem that the powers that be could easily create a New Adult category if they really wanted to...."

There’s also a list on goodreads of New Adult book titles. These books focus on college age characters, late teens to early twenties, transitioning into the adult world.

Some popular authors of the NA category include:
  • Jamie McGuire
  • Jessica Park
  • Tammara Webber
  • Steph Campbell
  • Liz Reinhardt
  • Abbi Glines
  • Colleen Hoover 
  • Sherry Soule
http://www.wattpad.com/story/29486760-irresistible-mistake-new-adult-romantic-suspense


Would you buy New Adult books? 
Does the genre appeal to you? 

Does it sound better than YA (teen novels)? 
 
Or are you happy with YA as it stands?

Do you consider YA to include characters that are over the age of eighteen? 
 

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21. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Interview with Joan Bransfield Graham

In preparation for sharing forms this month, I wrote to a number of poets and asked if they would respond to a short list of questions on poetry, writing, and form. I'm thrilled every time one responds positively and find they have all been extremely generous with their time.

Today I'm sharing the thoughts of Joan Bransfield Graham, author of the books Splish Splash (2001), Flicker Flash (2003), and The Poem That Will Not End (2014). In addition to these books, Joan's poetry for children has been published in numerous anthologies, textbooks, and children's magazines.
 
How do you begin a poem? OR How does a poem begin for you — with an idea, a form, an image, or something else? 
Joan: There are so many ways that poems tempt me to write them. Sometimes it starts with "a rhythm, a rhythm and a rhyme" and, then just like Ryan O'Brian, I'm off and writing. After we went on a family camping trip to Yosemite and hiked up Vernal Falls on the Cold Shower Trail, I wrote a "Waterfall" poem. When I thought about how it might look on the page, I decided to experiment with shaping it like a waterfall. Whole stanzas solidified into "Ice Cubes," I froze words into a "Popsicle," and took a "Shower" in words . . . Splish Splash evolved. Having an ongoing interest in photography, I often think of poems as wide-angle (the big picture) or telephoto (zoom in for the details) poems.  With poetry, as with my camera, I can capture a moment in time, an emotion, a new perspective. I like to play with the shape of language and the language of shape. Also, if you rub words together, how can you not ignite a spark?


How do you choose the form of your poems?
Joan: Perhaps the poems choose their own forms, the one that fits best. It helps to try out various forms for the same idea to see which is the most effective. Musicians jazz our world with soul, rock, classical. Artists amaze with oil paints, watercolor, collage. Poets surprise our senses and shake us awake with delicious forms and voices to best express what they want to say. It is exciting to have so many options. It's fun to experiment until it clicks, and you know you've found the perfect fit. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz said, "A common fallacy is to think that a poem begins with a meaning which then gets dressed up in words. On the contrary, a poem is language surprised in the act of changing into meaning."  


Are there any forms you haven't tried but would like to? Why or why not?
Joan: I'm always eager to try something new. I have information in my files about the Arabic ghazal and might have to give that a try. An example is Patricia Smith's "Hip-Hop Ghazal." I just got home from the gym where I stretched my way through yoga with peaceful music in the background and then danced through a loud Zumba class with hip-hop, Middle Eastern, and salsa rhythms. A woman said to me, "My brain is ready, but my body's not." I don't think she actually spoke in iambic pentameter, but that's how I remembered it. Music and dance can have repetitive movements and moves, and I am thinking maybe I need to write a Zumba/exercise/dance villanelle.

I'm quite fond of the villanelle. Here's "Fever," compliments of Ryan O'Brain, from THE POEM THAT WILL NOT END. When I wrote this, I had visions of Amadeus at his creative crescendo and could hear Peggy Lee singing and snapping her fingers. I've color-coded the repeating lines. When I'm working on a villanelle, I fill in the repeating lines I've chosen and then work backwards, forward, around—it's an intriguing challenge. I'm planning to use this for a choral reading sometime with one side of the room reading the red lines and the other side reading the blue lines. I have written those lines on large strips of oaktag. Then students can see and feel this form before they encounter Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" and Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art." I dedicate this to all poets, artists, actors, and musicians who have a fever to create. 

FEVER

I cannot stop this fever in my brain,
I feel compelled to write, and write, and write.
Day in, day out, the words just fall like rain.

Is there some way that I can plug the drain—
To rescue me, to save me from this plight?
I cannot stop this fever in my brain.

I’ve stepped on board a rhythm kind of train,
That’s traveling, zooming at the speed of light.
Day in, day out, the words just fall like rain.

What made this happen no one can explain,
I toss and turn and twist each sleepless night.
I cannot stop this fever in my brain.

What’s that? You say that I should not complain?
I’m tired and hungry, but you might be right.
Day in, day out, the words just fall like rain.

Now, I just wrote this villanelle refrain.
Hey . . . maybe I should NOT put up a fight.
I cannot stop this fever in my brain.
Day in, day out, the words just fall like rain.

Poem ©Joan Bransfield Graham. All rights reserved.

What tools (rhyming dictionary, book of forms, etc.) do you use in writing poetry (if any)?
Joan: My senses are the most important tools. (A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman is a terrific book.) I don't own a rhyming dictionary. If I'm looking for a rhyme, I go through the alphabet in my head for possibilities. Myra Cohn Livingston's Poem Making, Mary Oliver's A Poetry Handbook, and Edward Hirsch's How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry are all resources I enjoy using. And, of course, reading lots of stimulating poetry. What would you like students or children to know about poetry?


What would you like students or children to know about poetry?
Joan: My I'd like them to know that poetry is fun, useful, and a great adventure. Each poem is an act of discovery; you can learn more about yourself and more about the world around you; it helps us widen our vision and our hearts. Poetry is a bridge that connects us and allows us to step into another's experiences, ideas, life. We are all connected, and nowhere is that connection stronger than in poetry. C. S. Lewis said "We read to know we are not alone." When someone responds to what we have written, then we are singing a duet.


Finally, one of your esteemed colleagues suggested I ask for a poem in a foreign verse form. Would you be willing to share a poem for this project?
Joan: Edward Hirsch reports that "pattern poems have been found in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Chinese, Sanskrit, ancient Persian, and in most modern European languages." Today we often use the term "concrete" (the opposite of "abstract")—having a definite form. The Pattern Poem shows a visual relationship between form and meaning. And so I offer two versions of my poem "Birthday Candles" from Flicker Flash—one in English and then the same poem in a foreign language—Japanese. What an amazing job they did! The Japanese version of Flicker Flash came out in 2013 from Fukuinkan Shoten, Japanese text ©Chie Fujita. I am astonished they were able to translate the poems and maintain the shapes so successfully.
To refer back to question #1, when I was attempting to write this poem,  I put candles on a cake, lit them, and sat alone at the dining room table in the dark.  I thought about all the celebrations we had experienced around that table . . . and the glowing faces, which made all those occasions so special.


A million thanks to Joan for participating in my Jumping Into Form project this month.

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22. Five Questions with Kids Comics Authors

KidsComicQuestions TourBanner

It’s not every day that you get to do a Q&A with some of the best creators of kids content out there. In celebration of Children’s Book Week, Rafael and I were thrilled to get to pose 5 questions to some folks who are working at the top of their game and doing some amazing work. It’s the blog tour of all blog tours.

So check out the tour dates and postings throughout April and May. Right HERE

KidsComicSponsored BlogTourBanner.


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23. IF: Tense

Tension, Doubt, Performance anxiety… Can he catch it? Can it get away?


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24. Meredith Zeitlin, author of SOPHOMORE YEAR IS GREEK TO ME, on writing what you're excited about

We're delighted to have Meredith Zeitlin with us to share more about her latest novel SOPHOMORE YEAR IS GREEK TO ME.

Meredith, what was your inspiration for writing SOPHOMORE YEAR IS GREEK TO ME?

I had a friend who mentioned that when she was a kid she used to live in Greece with her extended family for months at a time, during the school year. I thought that was such an interesting idea, to be IN school but not at YOUR school. Since the friend was Greek, I figured I’d make my character Greek, too - especially because, with all the recent economic issues in Greece in the last few years, there would be plenty for my character to discover and explore on her journey. I also wanted to continue writing the world I created for my first book (Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters) but through the eyes of a new main character.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

I don’t want to give anything away, so this is a hard question to answer… but I will say that the scenes between Zona and her dad were both very enjoyable and very difficult for me to write. My own father died when I was 21, and we were very close when I was growing up. In imagining the character of David Lowell I had to think a lot about details I hadn’t reflected on in a long time, and that was not so easy. There’s a scene at the end of the book where Zona is in a very vulnerable position and truly terrified, and it was painful to put myself through those emotions to get the scene just right. I’m very proud of how it came out in the end.

Another scene I really love is the one in which a boy Zona likes puts an ice cream cone down - ice cream side first - on top of her head. That actually happened to me in college, and it was one of the most absurd moments ever. I have been dying to use it in a book!

How long did you work on SOPHOMORE YEAR IS GREEK TO ME?

Writing a book is a strange and very drawn-out process. I traveled in Greece for three weeks to research the book and craft the story around the people I met and the experiences I had, and I wrote maybe 40 pages while I was there. When I came home I wrote the rest of the book in about three months, and then sent it off to my editor. Every few months after that I’d get notes and do rewrites and send back a new draft. And for the last six months or so, the book has been finished but not actually FINISHED, i.e. printed. So the overall timeline from starting the book to publication was about two years, but the actual time spent writing it is more like five months overall.

What do you hope readers will take away from SOPHOMORE YEAR IS GREEK TO ME?

Excitement about travel. A desire to connect with new people. The knowledge that being brave and being scared aren’t mutually exclusive. All the main characters in this story are wrestling with being true to themselves, despite what other people are asking of them or expecting, and I hope their experiences might be helpful to young readers who are dealing with some of the same issues.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I am a terrible example for other writers and writers-to-be. I have no ritual. I’m the worst procrastinator, and will do almost anything to keep from actually sitting down and getting work done. I don’t even have a desk! I write on my couch or in bed (bad idea, obviously), and for short spurts before I get distracted by something and have to take a break. TV and Facebook are the worst distractions for me, so sometimes I’ll force myself to go to a coffee shop and sit there until I get pages done. I do write scenes in my head, though, often before I fall asleep at night, and then I might get up and finally type them up the next day. (Or a month later.) I find it easier to let ideas flow and develop when I’m drifting off instead of when I’m forcing myself to stare at a computer screen.

When I do listen to music, I usually put on one of my favorite Broadway scores - “Ragtime” and “Once on this Island” are two I always seem to go back to. Then sometimes there will be a magical moment when I realize the music has ended and I’m still working… which means I actually did it: I was a writer for two whole hours! Then I feel exceptionally proud of myself and eat a bunch of candy and refuse to do any work for a week.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Don’t worry about getting a publisher or writing something commercial or any of that stuff - just write. Write anything that you are interested in or excited about - even it’s sappy poems or memories from your childhood or retellings of books you love. You never know what you’ll be able to use someday for a project, and just getting into the habit of writing is the best exercise of all. Now if only I could take my own advice…

What are you working on now?

I should be working on Junior Year, and I do have thoughts about it. I’m also toying with an idea for something totally different, and not necessarily YA. But no promises!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Sophomore Year Is Greek to Me
by Meredith Zeitlin
Hardcover
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Released 4/21/2015

A laugh-out-loud high school adventure set in Greece, perfect for fans of Meg Cabot

High school sophomore Zona Lowell has lived in New York City her whole life, and plans to follow in the footsteps of her renowned-journalist father. But when he announces they’re moving to Athens for six months so he can work on an important new story, she's devastated— he must have an ulterior motive. See, when Zona's mother married an American, her huge Greek family cut off contact. But Zona never knew her mom, and now she’s supposed to uproot her entire life and meet possibly hostile relatives on their turf? Thanks... but no thanks.

In the vein of Anna and the French Kiss, Zona navigates a series of hilarious escapades, eye-opening revelations, and unexpected reunions in a foreign country—all while documenting the trip through one-of-a-kind commentary.

Purchase Sophomore Year Is Greek to Me at Amazon
Purchase Sophomore Year Is Greek to Me at IndieBound
View Sophomore Year Is Greek to Me on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

mzphotosmallMeredith Zeitlin has written two books for young people (so far) and lots of articles for Ladygunn Magazine. She is also a voiceover artist who can be heard on commercials, cartoons, and TV shows (if you want to know more about that, go here: www.mzspeaks.com).

She lives with two adorable feline roommates in Brooklyn, NY, and loves talking about herself in the third person. All of which, you have to admit, is pretty rad.






What did you think of our interview with Meredith Zeitlin, author of SOPHOMORE YEAR IS GREEK TO ME? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Martina, Jocelyn, Shelly, Jan, Lisa, Susan, and Erin

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25. The Babies and Doggies Book

Board Book: The Babies and Doggies Book. John Schindel and Molly Woodward. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Lots of things babies do, doggies do too. Babies and doggies hide and peek. Babies and doggies like to eat.

Premise/plot: Photos and text reveal just how much babies and doggies have in common. The photos are adorable. If you find babies cute and adorable, you'll like the pictures. If you find dogs cute--especially puppies--then you'll like the pictures. If you like puppies and babies, you'll find the book precious.

My thoughts: I liked it. I did. I loved looking at the photographs. The text was very nice as well. The rhyming worked well and didn't get in the way. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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