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1. A Fond Farewell to Publishing

Hello!

Chris Richman here. After many months of consideration, I’ve decided to leave the book world. This isn’t a decision I make easily—for years I wanted to work in publishing, and it was a literal dream come true when I landed a job as a literary agent. I loved finding new talent, working with my clients, and sharing in their triumphs. I enjoyed connecting with writers across the country and the world, and being a part of people’s roads to success.

I’m especially proud to have worked with so many talented people over the years, from my wonderful roster of clients, to the editors who helped shape good stories into great ones, and especially to my colleagues both at Upstart Crow and Firebrand Literary way back when. The biggest debt I owe is to Michael Stearns, who served as a wonderful mentor for me when I was just starting, and now has become a friend. His guidance, sense of humor, and occasional tough love helped me in too many ways to count.

In the end, however, I’ve decided to seek a different route, and I’m happy to announce I’ve started a job in PR and marketing in Philadelphia, and look forward to a shift in careers.

Thank you to everyone who helped along the way, including the writers who shared their work with me. I wish I could have responded to every query more quickly, or signed more clients, or met more people at conferences. But hey, it was a pretty good run that I’ll remember fondly.

Best of luck to you all out there!

Chris Richman

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2. The Key & The Flame Comes out Today!

katfWe at Upstart Crow Literary are very excited to announce the publication of Claire Caterer’s debut novel The Key & The Flame, published by Margaret K. Mcelderry books! Claire is a wonderfully talented author who worked long and hard to bring this story of magic and mystery into the world.

The Key & The Flame follows eleven-year-old Holly Shepard, a bookish girl who desperately seeks some escape from her boring life living in the middle of Kansas. When her family takes a trip to England, Holly gets more than she bargained for when she receives an old iron key that unlocks a door to a secret world, and also the potential for magic within her.

Holly is joined on her journey by two tagalongs—her younger brother Ben, and Everett, an English boy who hungers after Holly’s newfound magic and carries a few secrets of his own. Holly, Ben, and Everett go from being ordinary kids in our world to extraordinary guests in a new world–but can Holly and friends be able to muster the courage and rise above her ordinary past to become an extraordinary hero?

When I first read the pitch for Claire Caterer’s story, I was immediately drawn in by the classic feel of the story, but particularly by Claire’s wonderful voice as a narrator. Seemingly without trying very hard, Claire was able to infuse the narration with humor, intrigue, and mystery, and make her characters stand out in a wonderful way that will appeal to reader’s of all ages.

I’m so excited for others to experience the adventure of The Key & The Flame. And once you’ve fallen in love, the story will continue next year with a sequel!

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3. E. M. Kokie’s PERSONAL EFFECTS Releases to Rave Reviews

A few years ago I was searching very hard for a gripping YA for boys, something with an authentic voice, issues teen boys could relate to, and a plot that grabbed me and didn’t let go. When author E.M. Kokie sent me the query and sample pages for her novel Personal Effects, I knew within five minutes of reading I’d come across something special. The voice was outstanding, the plot immediately grabbed me, and it took only a few days of reading the full story to realize I had to work with this author. I remember stepping off a plane on my way to an SCBWI conference, pulling out my phone, and emailing Kokie while still standing on the runway to say “I’m loving this book! Stay tuned!”

Nearly three years later, I’m happy to report my love of this novel is shared by others, as the response to Personal Effects book has been overwhelmingly positive. Just check out some of the great blurbs Personal Effects has received!

  • PERSONAL EFFECTS is one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time—it’s complex, moving, and beautifully written. I want everyone I love to read this book.” —Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award Finalist, Coretta Scott King Award winner, and Newbery Honor winner
  • “A fine addition to the literature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” —Kirkus
  • Timely, passionate, and political, PERSONAL EFFECTS is a story that needs to be told. Heartbreaking and heart-opening at the same time. —James Howe, author of The Misfits and Totally Joe
  • “Well written and heartfelt, Personal Effects provides much to discuss after the covers are closed. . . . This title is highly recommended for teen readers.” —VOYA
  • “PERSONAL EFFECTS is a smart, rugged, hugely insightful book that elevates an already soaring genre. E.M. Kokie glides along that fine line between comedy and tragedy to tell a sensation story.” —Chris Crutcher, a Margaret A. Edwards Award-winning author
  • . . . Kokie has written a no-holds-barred contemporary YA novel that is right up there with my all-time favorites of the genre.” —Richie’s Picks

Finally, we just learned that PERSONAL EFFECTS earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, who called it an “outstanding debut.” To read the complete review, HEAD HERE.

But you know where you should really head? To your local bookstore, so you can pick up a copy yourself! I promise you, this book will impact you, and is a great read for teens looking for challenging, gripping work. Grab a copy today!

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4. Congrats to Antony John!

Rejection. Redemption. Romance.

Now that the weather is nice and the sun is shining, I for one am itching to take a road trip. And if you are too, why not start with a dazzling new read by one of teen lit’s best writers?

Antony John.

Antony’s last book, FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB, was the recipient of brilliant reviews, lavish praise from authors and readers alike, and the prestigious Schneider Award for Teens.

NowThou Shalt Not Road Trip Antony brings us a fantastic new story: THOU SHALT NOT ROAD TRIP!

When sixteen-year-old Luke’s book, Hallelujah, becomes a national bestseller, his publishing house sends him on a cross-country book tour with his older brother, Matt, as chauffeur. But when irresponsible Matt offers to drive Luke’s ex–soul mate, Fran, across the country too, things get a little crazy. On the trip, Luke must loosen up, discover what it truly means to have faith, and do what it takes to get the girl he loves.

Told with Antony John’s signature wit and authenticity, and featuring smart, singular characters who jump off the page and into your heart, this story is a spiritual awakening and rockin’ road trip in one.

To learn more about Antony, visit him on the web at www.antonyjohn.net

Now start reading!

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5. Books, Books, and more Books

This winter has been unusually warm here in New York—no doubt that is because some of our favorite Upstart Crows have been heating up the bookshelves with their latest releases!

Yvonne Woon has followed up her debut novel, Dead Beautiful, with a haunting sequel called Life Eternal, continuing the epic journey of star-crossed lovers Dante and Renée.

Kirkus raves for Life Eternal, saying that “Renée’s story is romantic, suspenseful and far from over. A solid read, this one will leave readers wanting more.”

And if you haven’t read Dead Beautiful (which Publisher’s Weekly said has a “Harry Potter start and a Twilight finish”), what are you waiting for? It’s out now in paperback!

Learn more about Yvonne and her fabulous writing at: www.yvonnewoon.com

***

Have you ever wanted to go sleuthing?

Suzanna Show did in her first adventure, The Midnight Tunnel (now out in paperback!) and she’s at it again in The Mastermind Plot.

Kirkus says, “The suspenseful plot unfolds from Zanna’s first-person perspective, punctuated by her pithy observations. Fans of Suzanna Snow’s first mystery will cheer her latest adventure” and School Library Journal tells you to “add Zanna Snow to [your] list of quirky, bright, and determined female detectives.”

Angie brings the city of Boston to life with intriguing characters and a suspenseful mystery perfect for any middle grade reader. Will Zanna solve the case of the warehouse fires while uncovering secrets about her family’s past? You’ll have to buy a copy of The Mastermind Plot to find out!

To learn more about Suzanna Snow and Angie Frazier, visit www.angiefrazier.com

***

The saying “March comes in like a lion, out like a lamb” takes on a whole new meaning with this next release. And by lion we mean werewolf, of course!

If you’re anything like us, you’re practically salivating to get your hands on a copy of The Savage Grace, the conclusion to Bree Despain’s blockbuster Dark Divine trilogy. Action, suspense, and a heartbreaking romance are all on line—will Grace and Daniel make it, or not?

Translated into over fifteen languages, and optioned for the big screen, you won’t want to miss The Savage Grace, which is available on March 13th.

Visit Bree for more information at www.breedespain.com

***

March 13th also brings us the publication of Josh Berk’s highly anticipated GUY LANGMAN: CRIME SCENE PROCRASTINATOR.

Josh’s debut, THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN, received multiple starred reviews, awards, and landed on more than a few “Best of 2010” lists.

This new novel follows Guy Langman as he is unwittingly drawn into a murder investigation as part of the Forens

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6. Say Hello to Cole Gibsen’s KATANA

Katana final CoverI’m thrilled today to announce the publication of KATANA, a sexy, fun, and engrossing story by my client Cole Gibsen. KATANA, published by Flux books, tells the story of Rileigh Martin, a skater girl who suddenly finds herself with the fighting abilities of an ancient Japanese samurai.

From the publisher: “Rileigh Martin wants to believe that adrenaline gave her the strength to fend off three muggers in the mall parking lot. But adrenaline doesn’t explain the voice in her head giving her battle tips and warnings.

While worrying that she’s going crazy (always a reputation ruiner), Rileigh gets a visit from Kim, a handsome martial arts instructor, who tells Rileigh she’s harboring the spirit of a five-hundred-year-old samurai warrior.

Relentlessly attacked by ninjas, Rileigh has no choice but to master the katana–a deadly Japanese sword that’s also the key to her past. As the spirit grows stronger and her feelings for Kim intensify, Rileigh is torn between continuing as the girl she’s always been and embracing the warrior inside her.”

Antony John, author of the 2011 Schneider Family Book Award for his novel Five Flavors of Dumb, says “Prepare yourself for a smart, sassy heroine and seriously swoony romance…with a little butt-kicking thrown in for good measure. A cracking debut.”

School Library Journal says, “This action-packed novel has a unique and compelling plot…Fans of Carrie Asai’s “Samurai Girl” series (S & S) will be particularly interested, but even readers who dislike supernatural story lines will enjoy this tale of modern samurais.”

I originally pitched KATANA as a mix of Kill Bill and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and wrote about it some time ago in my post on pitching projects in 25 words or less. KATANA is the very definition of a high concept, commercial project, and I think teen readers everywhere will love it! If you’re in the mood for a sexy tale with plenty of action, find KATANA online or at your local bookstore!

  • For more information about Cole Gibsen and the book, head to: http://www.colegibsen.com/ or follow her on Twitter at @ColeGibsen
  • To read a great interview with Cole, head to: http://carlybennett.blogspot.com/2012/03/interview-cole-gibsen-katana.html
  • For an interview with me about what made me sign KATANA, head to LS Murphy’s blog: http://lsmurphy.com/2012/03/08/5-questions-with-chris-richman/

What are you doing still reading this blog? Go out and buy the book already!

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7. Is Jonathan Franzen Right?

Are e-books damaging society? I’ve been thinking a lot about the piece that appeared in the Telegraph this week citing Franzen’sexploding-earth-bomb-clip-art-thumb2794671 hatred of e-books.

I was fully prepared to be annoyed by the article when I read the headline. While I’m not fatalistic enough to link the downward trajectory of society to e-books (or at least not solely to e-books), I enjoyed some of Franzen’s points, particularly this one about permanence of physical books:

“I think, for serious readers, a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience. Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn’t change.”

I like thinking about books this way. Sure, I own an iPad and a Kindle, and I have a slew of e-books on both of ‘em. I love being able to purchase books on a whim–in the middle of the night, on a rainy Sunday, whatever– from the comfort of my own home. But I often feel a certain hollowness when I’ve completed a download. I like the way a real book takes up space in my life the way an e-book can’t. If I download a book,  visiting friends can’t pull it off of the shelf and thumb through it. My infant son can’t grab it and chew on the corner, leaving little dimples in the jacket (which annoys me now and which I will feel nostalgic  about later when he stops chewing on things).  I can’t slip a piece of paper into the book to mark my place, or tuck the paperwork I’m carrying around with me between the front cover and the title page. I can’t scrawl a friend’s phone number on the inside back cover.

I asked my interns to share their thoughts..”I actually bought both of Jonthan Franzen’s books on my Kindle,” one intern said sheepishly. ” They’re 600 pages long! Who wants to lug that around with them all day?”

Ha ha. Touché, Jonathan Franzen.

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8. Sarah Ockler Bakes A New Novel … To Perfection!

There’s certainly nothing to be “bitter” about now that Sarah Ockler’s latest novel has hit the shelves.

With her unique mixture of romance, witty one-liners, and, of course, hopefulness mixed with a dash of heartbreak, Sarah has delivered a confectionary delight-of-a-novel that I am so excited is out in the world. The perfect way to start out 2012!

A little about the book:

Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances, a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life—and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last….

I am so incredibly proud of Sarah–she has whipped up what may very well be her tastiest book yet. So get your copy now! And visit Sarah at: www.sarahockler.com

What are you waiting for? Didn’t you see the part about cupcakes?!

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9. You Will Love LOVE & LEFTOVERS!

https://upstartcrowliterary.highrisehq.com/files/19823469/Love%20and%20Leftovers%20hc%20cover.jpgToday is the official release day my client Sarah Tregay’s debut novel-in-verse, LOVE & LEFTOVERS (Katherine Tegen Books).

I didn’t experience manuscript love at first sight until I read an early draft of LOVE & LEFTOVERS. When it came in on submission, I stayed up all night reading it, elbowing my husband awake and reading him passages that I loved. I had to stop myself from calling Sarah in the middle of the night to offer her representation.

It’s truly a special book, and Sarah is a truly special writer, and we are incredibly grateful to the team at Katherine Tegen Books, who have given this novel the love and attention it deserves. School Library Journal gave LOVE & LEFTOVERS a starred review. Booklist said: “Tregay adds depth with her ability, in just a few words, to palpably express both the emotions of love and physical longings that go along with it. This first novel may make teenage readers’ hearts beat a bit faster.”

Lauren Myracle, bestselling author of SHINE, gushed of LOVE & LEFTOVERS: “Amazing. The most delicious love story I’ve read in ages.”

Here’s a bit about the book:

My wish is to fall cranium over Converse in dizzy daydream-worthy love.

(If only it were that easy.)

Marcie has been dragged away from home for the summer—from Idaho to a family summerhouse in New Hampshire. She’s left behind her friends, a group of freaks and geeks called the Leftovers, including her emo-rocker boyfriend, and her father.

By the time Labor Day rolls around, Marcie suspects this “summer vacation” has become permanent. She has to start at a new school, and there she leaves behind her Leftover status when a cute boy brings her breakfast and a new romance heats up. But understanding love, especially when you’ve watched your parents’ affections end, is elusive. What does it feel like, really? Can you even know it until you’ve lost it?

Love & Leftovers is a beautifully written story of one girl’s journey navigating family, friends, and love, and a compelling and sexy read that teens will gobble up whole.

Congratulations, Sarah!

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10. Friday Inspiration

I read a lot of queries this week–about one hundred. I sent a lot of rejections this week–about ninety-something (I requested four manuscripts).

Getting rejections is never easy (remember: I get them, too!). Sending rejections isn’t easy, either. But when I pass on your project and tell you to keep writing, I mean it. The passage below explains why. So even if you think I’m a jerk with no taste for passing on your project, you should listen to Ira Glass, because he’s a really smart guy.

Keep writing.

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11. Amazon Publishing. What Does it Mean to You?

So. The new Amazon publishing program.

Lots of folks are taking about this article in the New York Times.

I can see why it’s a very exciting prospect for new writers, or for writers with a lot of talent who have had trouble getting their work noticed under the more traditional model. Heck, it’s obviously exciting for the established–and bestselling–authors who are now publishing with Amazon.

I can’t see why this would make the need for an agent any less important. But obviously I’m quite biased in favor of agents.

I want to write more about it, but in the meantime, I’d like to hear from you.

Writers, both published and unpublished: How do you feel about the new publishing venture from Amazon? Does it change your view of what it means to “get published”? Is it more alluring than the “traditional model” to you, in terms of getting your work out there?  Does it make you feel like you need an agent any less than you would with a more traditional publisher? Discuss!

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12. Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm by Erin Byers Murray

shucked-cover-imageDo you love oysters? Do you love cooking? Then you’ll love the fantastic new memoir from Upstart Crow client Erin Byers Murray!

SHUCKED: LIFE ON A NEW ENGLAND OYSTER FARM (St. Martin’s Press) is now available from your favorite book retailers. Murray chronicles her experience with the crew at Island Creek Oysters, where she learned the ins and outs of farming, and follows her food in an unforgettable journey from sea to table.

Praise for SHUCKED:

“Murray’s own love of food and food writing informs the narrative, and she skillfully dramatizes the scenes of summertime sowing and depicts her many colorful co-workers. Murray eschews poetic waxing on her subject and focuses closely on the action and the hard, hard work of …” –Publishers Weekly

“Part of the book’s charm is following Murray through the process of becoming aware of her surroundings in working directly with an edible product.  An entertaining and informative firsthand experience of the locavore movement.” –Library Journal

“While most books about oysters tell people what they want to hear, Shucked tells it like it is: the frigid winter days on the water with hands like popsicles, the backbreaking work, the anxiety of nurturing thousands of dollars’ worth of oyster seed, the hard-partying nights. Erin Byers Murray captures the seasonal rhythms of the New England coast and the romance of one exceptional company’s efforts to coax great food from the sea. You’ll never take an oyster for granted again.” –Rowan Jacobsen, bestselling author of The Geography of Oysters

Pick up your copy today!

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13. The Jack Blank Adventure Continues with The Secret War!

Secret WarI often field questions about how to handle writing and pitching a series. Do you write all the books at once? (No) Should you pitch the entire series to an agent or editor? (Probably not) Should things in book fourteen be set in stone? (Absolutely not)

If you’re looking for a great example of how to plot a successful series, be sure to check out Matt Myklusch’s Jack Blank Adventures; Book I, The Accidental Hero, came out in paperback this April, and Book II, The Secret War, is in stores now.

Book II begins one year after the conclusion of The Accidental Hero. After helping save the Imagine Nation and proving himself a hero, Jack is sidekicking with big league super heroes and getting a taste of what it takes to be a hero in the real world.

Even though Jack is being hailed as a superstar, he’s still hiding dark secrets from his best friends…secrets that could prove disastrous to both The Imagine Nation and the world at large. And Jack’s old enemy Jonas Smart will do whatever it takes to uncover Jack’s secrets and prove him a villain once and for all.

Jack will need to learn to trust his friends, balance his growing powers, and find a way to head off an invasion if he wants to win The Secret War.

Congratulations, Matt! And readers, be sure to look for the exciting conclusion in next year’s The End of Infinity!


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14. Are You A Mischief Maker?

Look no further.

July brought the debut of Laura Goode’s SISTER MISCHIEF, a provocative look at coming-of-age, first love, religion, and music.

Listen up: You’re about to get rocked by the fiercest, baddest all-girl hip-hop crew in the Twin Cities – or at least in the wealthy, white, Bible-thumping suburb of Holyhill, Minnesota. Our heroine, Esme Rockett (aka MC Ferocious) is a Jewish lesbian lyricist. In her crew, Esme’s got her BFFs Marcy (aka DJ SheStorm, the butchest straight girl in town) and Tess (aka The ConTessa, the pretty, popular powerhouse of a vocalist). But Esme’s feelings for her co-MC, Rowie (MC Rohini), a beautiful, brilliant, beguiling desi chick, are bound to get complicated. And before they know it, the queer hip-hop revolution Esme and her girls have exploded in Holyhill is on the line. Exciting new talent Laura Goode lays down a snappy, provocative, and heartfelt novel about discovering the rhythm of your own truth.

SISTER MISCHIEF may be outrageous, but it’s absolutely full of heart, and Laura has one of the freshest voices on the shelves today. The book has been garnering some lavish praise, including a starred review from Booklist which said, “This debut is full of big ideas, big heart, and big poetry, with a positive, activist message.”

So what are you waiting for—go get your copy!

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15. Jacqueline West’s BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE, VOL II: SPELLBOUND

The long wait is finally over, because today’s the day you can get your hands on Jacqueline West’s SPELLBOUND, the sequel to the critically acclaimed, New York Times Bestselling novel THE SHADOWS. SPELLBOUND continues Olive’s adventures into Elsewhere, where she’ll meet new friends, face familiar foes, and be sucked deeper into the mystery of her house’s previous owners.

Here’s a terrific video featuring fun facts about the house that inspired the series, some details about SPELLBOUND, and the always-lovely Jacqueline West speaking about her story.

If you missed out on the first book of the series, don’t fret! THE SHADOWS was released in paperback just last month! It’s not too late to read the book Publisher’s Weekly praised for it’s “wicked sense of humor,” Time For Kids rated 9.5 out of 10, and The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books called “A delightful concoction of quirky humor blended with a rumbling ominous undertone.”

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16. We’ve Gotta Crow!

Despite the immense loss everyone still feels here at Upstart Crow about Bridget Zinn, we would nonetheless like to take a moment to shine a bit of sweet light on the wonderful crows who’ve brightened readers’ month of June with their new releases. It has been a busy, busy month!

eternal seaThe first of June brought us The Eternal Sea from Angie Frazier, the sequel to her rollicking, romantic debut, Everlasting.

The Eternal Sea follows star-crossed lovers Oscar and Camille through a dangerous and paranormal adventure to find true love and happiness. It is thrilling, passionate, and incredibly well done. Fans of historical novels, romances, and simply “darn good” books should pick it up!

And if you haven’t read Everlasting… what are you waiting for?

~

Halpinpb

Josh Berk’s critically acclaimed (and super funny) The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin may have a fresh new look in paperback—but the jokes and suspense are deadly funny just the same.

Will Halpin may be deaf and overweight, but what’s a couple of handicaps matter when there’s a murder to be solved?

Read the book that Kirkus and SLJ gave starred reviews to, and Amazon.com, Kirkus, and VOYA named one of their “Best Books” for 2010.

~

BOE1pb

And the middle of June welcomed Olive—the protagonist of Jacqueline West’s New York Times bestselling debut, The Shadows—into paperback.

This award-winner is the recipient of multiple starred reviews and nominations. If you missed Olive in hardcover, get caught up on this heartwarming, spooky, and very funny series  … with luck, you’ll be done with it just in time for Spellbound, the second entry, which hits shelves in July.

~


AccyHeropb

Another book with a hot new look for summer is Matt Myklusch’s THE ACCIDENTAL HERO.

Formerly known as Jack Blank and The Imagine Nation, this riveting middle grade adventure is perfect for Percy Jackson fans, but stands on its own as the start of a great new series. The San Francisco Book Review called Jack “a mythical hero.&rdquo

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17. Bridget Zinn

One of the Upstart Crow fold passed away early yesterday morning, and we here are still reeling and red-eyed rom the news. Our love and support go out to her husband, Barrett, and to Bridget’s family and friends, who are legion.

As one should have expected about someone dubbed the World’s Fastest Librarian, Bridget Zinn departed the scene earlier and faster than anyone could have ever imagined. And the world is a poorer, dimmer, duller place for her absence. We will miss her. I will miss her.

[Below, a video'd thank you she'd made after an auction to raise money for her fight against cancer. It is how I always see her in my mind's eye.]

At times like these, one can’t help but realize how shabbily inadequate words are when it comes to grief. Sad just doesn’t cut it. No how no way. Doesn’t come anywhere near to capturing the weighty emptiness we feel. And to amp things up with adverbs—well, that sort of lousy writing she wouldn’t stand for.

When I think of Bridget, who was a friend as well as a client, I think of her first novel, Poison. It is a bright, funny, sweet wonder of a book, and I’d printed out the manuscript and taken it with me home from the office because I just couldn’t stop reading. I startled my fellow subway passengers by barking out laughter every few minutes. You’ll get to read it one of these days—we later sold it at auction to Hyperion. The story is a fantasy about a girl fugitive who fancies herself tough-as-nails until she finds love, humility, and more through an unexpected partnership with a wee enchanted piglet named Rosie.

Like Bridget, her novel is warm, breezily witty, full of a large-hearted love for her characters and the world. And oh god, but she and it are funny. A giddy joy saturates every page of the manuscript—a joy, I realized, that came from Bridget herself.

When she was diagnosed with cancer, Bridget handled it with a courage that I found hard to fathom. How could she be so happy? So carefree? So effortlessly sweet and funny? She had an optimism about her, I learned, because that’s who she was. Even after the diagnosis, inspiration to us all, she was for the most part happy. She and her longtime boyfriend, Barrett, got married, and they bought their dream house in Portland, the city they loved. (And where, when I’d visit, they’d take me to beautiful spots I’d have never found otherwise.) She’d sold her book and was hard at work on the sequel, as well as another novel about one of her favorite things in the world: Shoes. It’s a cliche, but Bridget was so full of zest and life that she made the cancer almost seem beside the point.

Which is why yesterday’s news was so devastating, so unexpected, so unjust. There was little enough in the world already to made it a worthwhile place; now there’s a whole lot less.

We have all been so fortunate to have Br

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18. A Sweet Read

100214981Happy Release Day to the wonderful Christina Mandelski, whose debut novel, THE SWEETEST THING, is officially on sale today from Egmont USA.

A bit about the novel:

In the world of Sheridan Wells, life is perfect when she’s decorating a cake. Unfortunately, everything else is a complete mess: her mom ran off years ago, her dad is more interested in his restaurant, and the idea of a boyfriend is laughable. But Sheridan is convinced finding her mom will solve all her problems—only her dad’s about to get a cooking show in New York, which means her dream of a perfect family will be dashed. Using just the right amount of romance, family drama, and cute boys, The Sweetest Thing will entice fans with its perfect mixture of girl-friendly ingredients.

It’s always exciting to see a wonderful book make its way into the world, especially when there was such a group effort in the publication process–and particularly when that book introduces readers to an author who is as bright a talent as Christina.

Pick up your copy today!

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19. I am a True Believer!

I have at last come around to the beauty of the e-reader.

Nook Ipad 400Back in the long ago of 2008, I bought the first Kindle to use as an aid to reading manuscripts. It was nearly four hundred dollars, which boggles the mind even now. Why? Because Kindle 1 had serious problems: it was a poorly designed, clumsy device with page flip buttons in all sorts of weird places; it had problems with poor contrast and refresh rates on page flips; and it broke just after its year-long warranty expired. The latest iterations look pretty spiffy, but Kindle 1 was so awful and the customer service so terrible that Amazon forever lost my business.

After it broke down, I bought an iPad, but I never really used it for reading books. Wasn’t keen on the iBooks interface, with its silly animated page flips. Wasn’t about to give Amazon the satisfaction of downloading more books to its Kindle app.

Then I went on a work retreat/holiday, and I downloaded some books to the Nook app for the week. I read three of them. And now I don’t want to read books on anything else. In fact, I came home to find four books I’d ordered waiting. I returned them to the seller and downloaded them instead. This is how it will be from now on: I plan to get rid of many, many physical books. First big haul to sell at the Strand will be this morning before lunch. And you know what? I won’t miss ‘em.

I completely sympathize with those who fetishize physical books. God knows I do: I have a collection of signed first editions that I will never part with, and other books that I just feel some strange sort of cathexis for that goes beyond all reason.

But most other books I don’t need in physical form. For example, most nonfiction. I am a political junkie and consume books like Game Change and The Bridge like butter-slathered popcorn, but such books are topical and quickly outdated. Why keep an actual copy? And journalism such as the great David Grann’s collection of essays The Devil and Sherlock Holmes? I can’t wait to read it, but I don’t need to own it.

Sadly, this is true of most novels, too. Most novels are disposable unless they truly touch me in some way. In those cases, I’ll buy a hard copy of the book. (That’s how I operate now when I read a book in paperback and adore it—I end up tracking down a hardcover to add to the library.) But good as most novels are, few are so great that I want them lying about forever.

And now I can carry twenty books with me easily, and choose between books depending on my mood. I can switch from Patton Oswalt’s collection of essays Zombie Spaceship Wasteland to the most recent Newbery winner, Moon Over My Hammy—er, Manifest. And then I can reread William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition just for fun.

It’s amazing. My digital reader is making me read more and buy more books.* And I am never going back.

Has anyone else out there experienced a similar Saul/Paul conversion?

*Though not True Grit. I returned the physical copy I’d purchased and dragged along on vacation, where it went unread. But when I went to download it, discovered that the nookbook version costs more than the paperback on line. Really, Overlook Press? Is that how you want to play? Well, fine: I’ll read something else before I’ll pay more

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20. Congratulations, Jeff! (Or, Go Grab Your Nearest Deviant)

jeff sampson - vesperThis week saw the debut of Vesper, the constantly surprising, un-put-down-able first entry in Jeff Sampson’s thrilling new paranormal teen trilogy, Deviants, from HarperCollins Children’s Books/Balzer + Bray. It’s got a sexy cover, a spiffy design, and the stewardship of a great editor. A happy ending all around.

But this novel has had a long route to publication, and so its appearance on bookshelves is especially sweet. In a much different form—as a novel entitled, I believe, Wildeside—it was purchased for the Mirrorstone imprint of Wizards of the Coast. It was revised, edited, and scheduled. But before it could be published, Mirrorstone was folded and WotC became again focused on Dungeons & Dragons. (Roll those polyhedral dice, Nina!)

Then Jeff found a new agent, and the novel was again revised and edited. And then it sold at auction and was again revised and edited. During those years it went from being called Wildeside to The Savage Files to The Vesper Files to The Life and Death of Emily Cooke, until at last it was retitled Vesper, and Jeff again revised to more seamlessly work the title origin into the text, and now it is there, in stores, waiting for you to go and buy it for the teen in your life (or for yourself—go on, it’s okay).

I’ve already written about this novel on Goodreads, where I described it asa kind of mix of Westerfeld and Heroes (when it was good) and Veronica Mars, but entirely its own beast.” And then I got all philosophical-like. To wit:

Of late, the teen genre paranormal romances announce themselves as such, with the single element the author is playing with brayed about on the cover. Bored by Wolves! or Fairy Tail or Angel Boy or what-have-you. Such books are all about cashing in by being as obvious as possible. Want paranormal romance? Here’s a vampire angel zombie you can really love! You know you’re reaching the nadir of a trend when mere labeling is enough to make a book a success.

Which is one of the most refreshing things about Vesper. There are genre elements in here, but they’re not the ones you expect, and they’re not being used in a manner you’ll expect. Sampson has bigger aims than mere sort-of-boy-meets-sort-of-girl, and one of the novel’s many joys is just how often you realize that you don’t quite know what in tarnation is going on.

And the book is written with a crispness that is increasingly rare in this genre—Sampson isn’t one to linger forever on a boy’s steely gaze, the line of his jaw, his rock hard head (er, abs), etc.—those sorts of calculatedly gooey details that basically make so much of today&rsqu

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21. On Queries

I have to be honest: I always breathe a huge sigh of relief when we close our query lines in December. Finally, I think, a chance to catch up! But after a couple of weeks in a query-less world, I get twitchy with anticipation and anxious to dig in once again. Thus, I always approach the re-opening of our query lines with a sense of hope and a certain amount of nervousness. Not unlike, I suppose, many writers who are about to submit their work to agents feel as they pause, scanning their query letter one last time before clicking “send.”pgi0128

As you probably know, we re-opened our query lines last week. Perhaps you’ve just sent out your first-ever round of queries to agents. Or perhaps you’re on your second or third round of queries, having made tweaks and revisions to your query letter and novel based on previous feedback from agents and writers. Whether you’re a first-timer or a veteran, you most likely log into your email each day, nervous yet hopeful that you’ll get a response or two from the agents you’ve queried.

On my side of things, I log into my query box every day (or every couple of days), nervous yet hopeful that I will find the project—the one that will keep me up all night reading, the one that is so beautifully written that I will follow my husband around the house reading it aloud to him (as I am apt to do when I really love something), the one that I can pitch to editors with the utmost confidence and enthusiasm—basically, a project I can shout to the world about (and I’m happy to report that I’ve signed several such projects lately).

That said, in order to find that one project that I can’t live without, I have to read—and let go of—plenty of manuscripts. How many, you ask?  At last glance, I had just over 150 queries in my inbox. Out of those queries, some will show great potential, but will need more work before I can consider signing them. Some will be great, but just not right for me. And some of them just won’t be very good.

Once all is said and done, about three out of the 150 queries in my inbox will excite me enough that I’ll request a full manuscript. That’s right—three.

Look, I know this sounds dismal. I know that rejections are an unpleasant part of the submissions process (hey, don’t forget—agents get rejections, too!), and I know it’s discouraging to receive several rejections in a row, or not to hear back at all. And after awhile, it’s difficult for a writer not to take it personally. But as you go about your submissions process, remember that I’m not reading through queries looking for reasons to reject you; I’m reading with the hope that I will find a project I love. And that’s what other agents are doing, too.

So what can you do while you’re waiting to hear back? Keep writing (every day, even if it’s only a couple hundred words). Keep networking. Keep researching and querying more agents. And keep asking questions. If you have any questions about the querying process, the reading process, etc., shout ‘em out in the comments section.

Finally: Don’t give up. I’ll see you in the query box!

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22. Pleased as Punch for THE SHADOWS!

Elsewhere CybilsGreat news! We learned today that Jacqueline West’s THE SHADOWS has won a Cybil in the category of favorite middle grade fantasy & science fiction. What are the Cybils, you ask? From the official Cybils website (where you can view all the winners), “The Cybils awards are given each year by bloggers for the year’s best children’s and young adult titles… [that] combined literary merit with kid appeal.” We’re so happy bloggers chose to give this great award to Jacqueline’s book!

We must also acknowledge Sandra Stiles, a blogger who runs the website The Musings of A Book Addict; Sandra nominated THE SHADOWS and posts loads of great reviews on her site. Thanks so much, Sandra!

And there’s more BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE news, too! THE SHADOWS is also a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award in the Young People’s Literature category, and was named to the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list for 2011-2012. We’re so, so excited!

SpellboundOne last thing: As many of you know, Olive & company’s adventures don’t end in THE SHADOWS. There will be at least five volumes, starting next July with Vol 2: SPELLBOUND.  Here’s a look at the cover. Isn’t it just gorgeous?

Stay tuned for more exciting news!

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23. Fantastic Article: Publishing in the Twenty-First Century

A great article to add to your weekend reading pile: An interview in Poets & Writers, in which Gabriel Cohen talks to John B. Thompson about this book (titled Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century) and his views of the publishing industry today.

The article touches on everything from technology to chain stores to the roles of the key players in the industry, but my favorite part was probably the one in which Thompson discusses the technological fallacy, or the assertion that technology–not people–is the driving source of change in the publishing industry. Here’s what Thompson had to say about it:

“What they miss is that publishing is a complex field of actors and players and agents who are human beings actively involved in content—and that readers are human beings who have their own tastes and preferences. Technology isn’t just an independent variable that drives through all that come hell or high water. It’s part of a complex social process.”

I also loved his thoughts on whether authors “publishing” their books online will somehow bring about the downfall of the jobs of publishers, agents, and editors:

“There’s a very big difference between “publishing” in the sense of making something publicly available, on the one hand, and publishing in the sense of getting readers to notice it, read it, buy it, discuss it, and so on. Any author can post anything online, but that doesn’t mean that anyone is going to pay attention to it. That’s where the role of publishers remains absolutely vital—they play a fundamental role in bringing content to the attention of others, of publicizing it, of marketing it.”

You can read the full article here. And feel free to share your thoughts. Anything about the article you loved? Anything you disagreed with? Anything in particular that scares you about the fate of the future of book publishing?

Happy reading, and have a great weekend.

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24. A Stellar debut for Kurt Cyrus’s THE VOYAGE OF TURTLE REX!

Here at Upstart Crow, few events make us happier than when our clients’ books appear out in the world. That really is the ultimate triumph—when the book is on shelves, awaiting the fancy of a passing reader. Making that debut all the sweeter is when the reviewers recognize the genius of the talent involved (for if the talent involved didn’t partake of genius, we wouldn’t be working with him or her, right?

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Next month marks the publication of Kurt Cyrus’s picture book The Voyage of Turtle Rex, and its first two reviews are in—both starred raves that recognize Kurt’s singular talents as a writer and illustrator. The first is from Kirkus Reviews:

In a life-cycle arc paralleling the one in Cyrus’ Tadpole Rex(2008), a tiny prehistoric ancestor to modern sea turtles hatches from a buried egg, scuttles across a beach into the sea, survives multiple hazards to grow into a mighty two-ton Archelon and then in season returns to shore to lay a clutch of her own. Injecting plenty of drama into his beach and sunlit undersea scenes with sudden close-ups and changes of scale, the illustrator vividly captures the hatchling’s vulnerability as she passes with her sibs beneath a towering T. Rex only to discover a world of toothy predators beneath the ocean’s rolling surface. And even full grown, though she can glide unheeding past sharks and even plesiosaurs, an encounter with a mosasaur “massive and dark: / muncher of archelon, / gulper of shark” sends her sliding hastily down to concealment in the billowing bottom sands. Like its subject, the rhymed text moves with grand deliberation, carrying the primeval story line to a clever transition between that ancient era and ours: “Gone is that sea and the creatures it knew. / Archelon. Mosasaur. Pterosaur, too. / Gone is the plesiosaur’s clam-cracking smile… / but full-body helmets are still in style” as “shells of all fashions continue to girdle / the middle of many a tortoise and turtle.” Never has time travel been so easy or so immersive.

The second rave will appear in Publishers Weekly. They write:

In this companion to Tadpole Rex, a prehistoric turtle hatches on a “primeval beach” and slips beneath the waves. Cyrus’s illustrations incorporate dramatic scale, movement, and majesty: the spreads are a marvel of lighting and texture, as swirling ocean and sky symbolize the passage of time (”The hatchling who hid in the seaweed was gone…/ grown to a two-ton archelon”). As the turtle treads the starlit sea after laying her eggs, Cyrus comments on species loss: “Gone is that sea and the creatures it knew./ Archelon. Mosasaur. Pterosaur, too./ Gone is the plesiosaur’s clam-cracking smile…/ but full-body helmets are still in style.” A moving and truly epic journey. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)

We couldn’t be happier with the reception of Turtle Rex, and we think when you pick up the book you’ll see why: This is a picture book creator at the top of his form as both

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25. Jack Blank News + Boy Books

Jack Blank New CoverI’m thrilled to show off the brand spanking new title and cover for Book I in Matt Myklusch’s Jack Blank Adventures, now titled The Accidental Hero. If you didn’t have a chance to read the story in hardcover, fear not, for the book hits the shelves in paperback TODAY!

I’m planning a later post on books for boys, but in the meantime, if you’re interested in reading the sort of book that immediately caught my eye and serves as a solid indication of the sort of story I’m interested in representing, do yourself a favor and pick this story up! I love this story and think you will, too.

Here, for your clicking enjoyment, are a few useful links:

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