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1. “Publishing Agnosticism”—What It Is, Why It’s Important, and What It Means for Authors

Eve Bridburg

BY EVE BRIDBURG, Executive Director of GrubStreet

The first time I heard the term “publishing agnostic” was in November of 2011 at the Park Plaza hotel in Boston.   Barry Eisler used it during a talk he gave to the GrubStreet community as part of our NEA-funded Publish it Forward series.   He had shocked the publishing world by turning down a very lucrative book contract from St. Martins arguing that he could do better on his own.  But by November he had decided to publish with Amazon instead.

Some fellow writers and pundits criticized this move to Amazon.   “What gives? “ They asked.  “We thought you had defected to the self-publishing club.”   It was by way of explaining his move from St. Martins to self-publishing to Amazon that Barry described himself as agnostic.

As one definition goes, an agnostic is someone who holds neither of two opposing positions.   I think that’s how Barry was using the term.  He was making the point that his decision to self-publish in the first place wasn’t about his endorsement or love of self-publishing, but rather about choosing the best way to reach his goals.   When a new pathway emerged which better served those goals, he felt no conflict about changing tactics.

But Barry, whether he realized it or not, in using a term with deeply religious connotations, was also asking us – a room full of believers – to be doubters.  He was asking us to question our blind faith in what almost every serious writer we’d worked with up until that point had ever wanted:  a book deal with a traditional publisher.  The bigger the publishing house, the better.

And it wasn’t just our writers.  It was us, the teachers at and leaders of a major independent writing center.  Having existed in the margins in our early years, we were understandably hungry for a track record, for evidence that our work mattered.   And so we celebrated hugely when one of our flock got a story in the Atlantic Monthly or a book deal with Simon and Schuster.   In 2003, we launched our first Muse and Marketplace Conference and soon began inviting literary agents and publishers to Boston to meet our writers.  Many book deals followed.

After Barry’s talk, I started to wonder what being publishing agnostic might mean to us as an organization, and to writers everywhere.   When the world is changing fast under your feet, you need to find your footing before you can decide where to go.   We therefore started articulating our values and principles.

Here’s where we landed:

  1. Writing excellence is paramount because it is “good” writing that transforms lives and the world and entertains at the highest level.  We can debate what “good” means, but for us it’s about the search for truth, hard work, and dedication to the craft no matter the genre.
  2. We are grown-ups. It’s up to each of us as writers and as the professionals supporting writers to understand and own the entire publishing process. It’s incumbent  on each of us to engage in honest self-assessment to determine goals and objectives, strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Community is the glue.  Writing is a lonely, difficult pursuit.  Finding your people and being as generous as possible with them is key.
  4. Success in this space isn’t just measured monetarily.  Money is nice of course when it means book sales for authors and the ability of a place like GrubStreet to provide more jobs, scholarships and free programming, but it’s not the only or most important measure.
  5. Choice is good, especially choice which respects the central role of writers and places control and financial equity in their hands.

These are the things we think about now when evaluating what kinds of programs to offer or who to invite to our Muse and Marketplace conference. This year, we’ll be welcoming A-list literary agents, editors from Random House and Penguin, along side e-publishers like Vook and Amazon.  We’ll have an editor from Ploughshares and another from Electric Literature.   As we always do, we’ll have a bookseller on hand selling the books of our visiting authors, but we’ll also be running an independent author shop for any participant or small press attending the conference.   In short, we’ll be hosting a hybrid conference, inclusive of the many choices and pathways available to authors today.

Most of our writers seem to want the traditional path and that’s great, but it’s our responsibility as a professional development organization for writers to educate them about all pathways, especially since the industry is changing before our eyes.  In our own work and what we bring to writers we now preach agnosticism and save our blind faith for the power and necessity of words.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Eve Bridburg is the founder and Executive Director of GrubStreet, one the country’s leading creative writing centers.  A former literary agent, Eve developed, edited and sold a wide variety of books to major publishers before returning four years ago to GrubStreet to oversee an expansion in programming designed to better equip writers to thrive in the digital age.  She has presented widely about publishing at conferences and writes a monthly blog post called Publish it Forward which can be found at Grubdaily.org

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2. Penthouse to Get Into Erotica Book Publishing

cleispressPenthouse is jumping on the erotica bandwagon. The X-rated media company has teamed up with Cleis Press for a new series of erotica novels called Penthouse Variations On. The series will feature six co-branded collections of erotica, each collection will have a theme. For example, the first title will be Penthouse Variations on Oral.

Co-founder of Cleis Press Felice Newman remarked, “We are excited by this opportunity to expand the readerships of both Cleis and Penthouse in this fresh cross-pollination of sex positive culture. Together, we plan to develop a unique series that will take the erotica market by storm.”

Publishers Group West will distribute the books. The books will come out this fall.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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3. Harriet and Me

Where to begin with how important Harriet the Spy has been in my life? I guess I’ll have to start with my childhood. I was in fourth grade, at a school book fair. I’d forgotten to bring money that day, which was a problem because there was one book I was desperate to have. It had a bright orange cover with bold yellow type and a girl wearing glasses climbing all over it. And somehow I knew I was going to love it and I had to read it. AND IT WAS THE ONLY COPY AT THE FAIR. So I did what any right-thinking person would do under the circumstances: I hid it. Specifically, I put it at the bottom of a pile of very drippy-looking books (I’m guessing they were Winnie-the-Pooh; I detested Winnie-the-Pooh back then) and kept my fingers crossed that no one would find it and I could buy it the next day. Which I did. And Harriet has been a part of my life ever since.

It occurs to me now that this is probably the sort of thing Harriet herself would have done in a similar situation. And that in turn tells you why she’s a character who has endured for so long. She’s resourceful, quick, a little unscrupulous, and entirely recognizable. A real person, in other words. You might not like her (and I’m still not sure I do), but you know this girl.

That school book fair was the first time I remember Harriet being important to me. The second time came much later. I was a young assistant editor, starting out in children’s books. I’d been promoted and assigned a mass market series to edit. It was a steady-selling series for the publisher, and I was excited to be working on something so substantial. Needless to say, I took my responsibilities very seriously. This manuscript was going to be IN PRINT, after all. It was going to be a book! It had to be good! The future of the nation’s youth and the success of the series were resting on my shoulders alone! (I’m exaggerating just a bit, but I really did feel this way.) Unfortunately, the manuscript was about the worst thing I’d ever read. I couldn’t even articulate why it was so awful, but it was complete dreck, and I had to fix it. Or at least make it readable and enjoyable enough to sell ten thousand copies. And I had absolutely no idea how to do this.

Okay, I said to myself. Think about some other books, books you love. What makes them so great? That’s when I remembered Harriet. And I went back and read it — really read it, this time. I took it apart, technically. I began to understand how good it is. And even though the manuscript I was working on was a YA book and Harriet was a middle-grade novel, I learned things from Harriet about dialogue, structure, character, action, and pacing that I was able to apply, in a different way, to the problematic manuscript I had to edit. Harriet saved my bacon that time, and also made me think about books and reading and writing in a new way. It’s actually ironic that Harriet helped me edit a conventional YA romance, because Harriet is the complete opposite of that; it is in fact a wildly subversive novel. Which of course only makes me love it more.

What’s so revolutionary about it? Let’s start with the fact that Harriet is not a nice little girl. She does illegal things when she spies. If she doesn’t actually break into Mrs. Agatha K. Plumber’s house, for instance, she comes pretty close. She writes terrible things about people — not just the people she spies on, but also her best friends. The thing is, she’s not doing it because she’s mean (although she certainly has her mean moments). She’s doing it because she’s honest and because she’s compelled to do it. The note-taking is part of who she is, what she is training herself to be: a writer and observer. It’s work, and she takes it very seriously. And her friends accept this about her, even after she hurts them with her brutally honest observations. They know she can’t change. Even when she’s forced to apologize, she does it out of practical necessity, because she wants to keep her friends, not because she really means it. And then she goes back to doing exactly what she was doing before. She hasn’t changed one bit, and her friends know it.

Just think about all of this! It’s a giant raspberry to the school of thought that says, A-character-in-a-children’s-book-must-change-and-grow-throughout-the-course-of-the-story. Or to the school that says, A-character-must-be-essentially-good-and-lovable. In fact, any rules or precepts or cutesy-poo ideas you might have had about children’s books fly right out the window when you read Harriet the Spy. There is no great moral lesson to be learned, no transformative change that happens to the protagonist. Above all, there is no tidiness. Harriet is real life in all its messiness and ambiguity, populated by real people who are also messy and ambiguous.

There is yet another reason to love Harriet, and it’s another editorial story, this one about its origin. In the book Dear Genius, the great Ursula Nordstrom, the visionary editor at Harper & Row during its golden era, writes about how Harriet the Spy came to be published. It all started with a reader’s report from Charlotte Zolotow, who was then a senior editor, urging Ursula to read the manuscript. “You have to get this writer to come in and talk. This isn’t a book, but it could be,” she wrote enthusiastically. And on what did she base her enthusiasm? Pages of Louise Fitzhugh’s drawings and disconnected narrative, which seemed to consist mostly of Harriet’s spy entries. Somehow Charlotte was able to see past this jumble of words and envision a book. She and Ursula worked with the author and helped her find the characters and story that became Harriet.

In this age of acquiring manuscripts from debut authors that have to be perfect or nearly perfect to be signed on, I find this story to be an inspiration, and most of all a reminder: you have to keep an open mind about the creative process. It’s messy and unpredictable and risky. But the rewards of taking that leap of faith are boundless.

Just read Harriet again and see.

From the May/June 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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The post Harriet and Me appeared first on The Horn Book.

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4. Editorial and Publishing Employment: The Sun

The Sun is hiring!

We're searching for an Associate Publisher to direct business operations, finance, and personnel. We also have openings for a Manuscript Editor and an Editorial Assistant. All three positions are full-time and based in our Chapel Hill, North Carolina, office. Click the job titles below for details. (No e-mails, phone calls, faxes, or surprise visits, please.)

Associate Publisher

Manuscript Editor

Editorial Assistant

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5. Pressures of Publishing part two

by

Jodi Meadows

Last month I posted part one of the Pressures of Publishing. That post has a bunch of caveats and reminders that I know how lucky I am to be able write books that other people can read. So this time, I’ll just jump right in with a list. Obviously experiences will vary, but I did a super unscientific poll on Twitter.

And if you are feeling any of these things, know this: you are not alone. I repeat: you are not alone.

It might be easiest to organize these by type (sort of), so we’ll start with . . .

1. Vulnerability

Writing is a pretty personal thing. Especially when my stories are new and shiny, I love them so much. Little pieces of myself get stuck to them — hopes, dreams, fears, ideas, passions — and letting other people read that can be like letting them peek between my ribs to see my heart. (Sorry, that’s kind of gross sounding.) Even when I know the person reading it — like a critique partner or friend — it’s still a very vulnerable feeling.

You know the saying “Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.”? Yes. That feels very very true. And then you give your blood-spattered pages to other people. (Gross again. Sorry.) Sometimes they love it. Sometimes they hate it. Sometimes they are apathetic about it. It’s hard not to worry about what other people think of your story, not even on a career level, but a personal, emotional level.

2. Fear of disappointing others

One of the things about publishing is how many people take a chance on you. They take risks for you, for your book, for your career — all because they believe in a story you made up. I know so many authors who worry about disappointing their agents, editors, and other publishing people. They want their book to do well so these people they admire so much will feel that it was worth all the time, money, and effort they put into it.

And it’s not just the professionals authors worry about. We worry about disappointing readers who thought the book looked good and then spent money on it, and time reading it. And when more books come out, we worry about disappointing established readers. What if they don’t like the new one? What if we’ve lost them forever?

3. Writing as a job

Writing at any stage isn’t easy, but once writing also becomes a job, it seems to become even more difficult. Suddenly, there are deadlines to meet, promotion and marketing to take care of, and all the other things authors have to do that Aren’t Writing. Once the first book is turned in, we start thinking about the next one, and whether the publisher will believe in the first enough to take on the second. That next book needs to get out fast enough so that readers don’t forget about us, but not so quickly that we saturate our own market. A lot of writers feel like their process doesn’t conform to what publishing needs, usually in a time-related way, which makes those deadlines and regular release dates tricky.

There’s also the branding issue. If your first book is a light-hearted romance about a fairy and a giraffe, is that what’s expected of you for the rest of your career? What if you want to expand? What if publishers or readers only want the one thing from you? It’s pretty scary to think that the first subgenre you publish might be the only thing anyone ever wants you to write again.

And then, because writing is a job, it must be done. Even when it isn’t fun, contracted books must be written or there will be consequences. Because writing is a job, not something you do simply because you love telling stories.

4. Anxiety and other black holes

This whole blog post has been anxiety-inducing, but yes, there’s more. Lots of writers feel unqualified to talk about writing, do school events, talk about anything with any sort of authority. Plus, getting up to speak in front of people can be just plain scary.

There’s a lot to be afraid of: hoping the next book will do better than the first (and being afraid it won’t), worrying you’ll get no marketing for the book (or you’ll get a ton and the book will flop anyway), and a hundred other things I’m running out of room to name.

But I don’t want to forget the green-eyed monster, jealousy of other authors (and knowing that jealousy accomplishes nothing but gray hairs). It’s so freaking easy to assume what other authors are putting out into the world is the only thing that’s happening to them. Lots of marketing, ridiculously high sales numbers, and adoration from readers everywhere. Even though most of us know others share only the good things, it’s easy to forget that.

The truth is, every author struggles with some sort of pressure. Some of them are mentioned in this post. Lots probably aren’t. There are days I have to remind myself that I write books because I love telling stories — because it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. And like any job, there is stress involved.

What helps me? (Besides cookies, of course, which don’t help my pants.) Remembering the book love. Reading happy reader mail. Taking regular breaks. Acknowledging that there are some things I can’t change. Try to cut out whatever frustrating/upsetting/jealous-making things I can — which sometimes means ignoring various parts of the internet when I’m feeling particularly susceptible to negative feelings. And above all, I remember that there’s one thing I can control.

My writing.

Jodi Meadows lives and writes in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, with her husband, a Kippy*, and an alarming number of ferrets. She is a confessed book addict, and has wanted to be a writer ever since she decided against becoming an astronaut. She is the author of the INCARNATE Trilogy and the forthcoming THE ORPHAN QUEEN Duology (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen).
*A Kippy is a cat.

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6. Writing honestly from your true passions

The myth that publishers have stacks of manuscripts  and that writers have to line up in a long queue was deflated by Jennifer Bacia during her talk at the Gold Coast Writers Association meeting . ‘Actually, that is not the case’ she stated. According to Jennifer, publishers are always looking for something that will make […]

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7. I Started a Small Press (and Then Things Got Weird)

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The author in repose.

BY J DAVID OSBORNE

I tried retail for a while, and that was fun, in the way that puking on yourself at a family gathering is fun: you have a story. After a time, though, it stops being a story you laugh at and starts being one that you cry over. Usually into a beer. Next came moving furniture. For a time, that was good, physical work. I genuinely enjoyed it. And the stories I heard there, man, the meat of my second novel is mostly that. My imagination’s not that good. But then here comes nature and that heavy time and all of a sudden my back is in ruins and I got sick of carrying marble armoires up three flights of stairs. Then came restaurant work. That was fun.

Through all of this, I wrote. My first novel dropped in that weird interim before I started the moving job, when I was living in my car. The second hit and I was getting these royalty checks, but aside from the first one (which paid my rent), it wasn’t paying my rent. It hit me: “I’ve gotta find a way to make a living off of words or I’m going to die.”

I’ve been a fan of crime fiction since before I can remember. It started with Ellroy. I read White Jazz and threw my hands up and hollered. You can say this much with so little? I was hooked. I got the classics in, then I got voracious with it: Mosely, Sallis, Willeford, Pelecanos, Westlake, Parker, on and on.

I loved the opportunity crime fiction presented to peer into the human condition, and the (usually) clipped, no-bullshit delivery. What I didn’t like were the formulas, the staunch sexism, the rampant racism. I really wanted to carve something out that could represent everything that makes crime fiction beautiful, minus the stuff that made me cringe. That, and I didn’t want to sell hot dogs anymore.

I gathered a nice group of brilliant writers, who for whatever reason decided to hook me up with some manuscripts. I started a Kickstarter (pause for groans) in which I detailed five books my new indie press would put out, and—wonder of wonders—people thought it looked cool. I got the money and I was off to the races.

Sort of.

The books were edited and designed and off to the printers. They dropped, and then there I was. Floating.

There were many times I’d go out to my porch and smoke a cigarette and my house would shake as the trains rolled by out across the road, and I’d wonder what I could do to actually get people to look at these titles, to pick them up. I’d gotten a massively talented artist (Matthew Revert

) to do all of the covers for them, and they really popped. I’d sent out some review copies to places I thought would dig them.

Still waiting to hear back from most of those places.

I got tired of sitting on my hands. I took the books and grabbed a friend and hit the road. We went from Oklahoma to Wichita to Denver to Salt Lake City to Boise to Seattle to Portland to Sacramento out to the Bay to Los Angeles to El Paso. We performed in punk squats and abandoned warehouses and bookstores and back alleys. At one performance we lit a mannequin head on fire while I paced the floor with paint on my feet, tracing a chalk outline of an eye, rambling about a cyclops. At another I read the audience the end of my first novel and ripped out each page and burned it as I went. Though I didn’t sell copies at every stop, I talked to as many people as I could about the books. And I noticed an uptick. We live in an age of social media noise and rampant void screaming. There’s only one way to get things going, especially if you live in Oklahoma: you have to get out there and talk to people.

You have to ask them to dance.

There are other things you have to remember, too. Running a small press, it’s important to utilize social media, despite my prior assertion that it’s a dying medium. You have to be a person online, first. I see folks every day, inviting me to their “book releases,” which are really just Amazon launches of e-books. That’s annoying. You’re more likely to see me posting pictures of my dog, or complaining about how I could really go for a cigarette (quitting is tough, but, hey! nine days) than you are to see me talking about the books or writing or editing. The first reason is that places like Facebook and my blog are my escapes. The second is that you just turn into a spambot and fade into the background, and good luck swimming out of that lagoon.

Another thing: finances. Be careful. Keep your receipts. Where I live, there are crazy tax breaks for small businesses. Make sure you know exactly what you owe your authors. If you don’t pay them right, everyone will know, and you will be ostracized. And rightly so.

On the topic of writers: they are, for the most part, a funny bunch. They care about this stuff. So they’ll have things to fix, last-minute requests, bizarre neuroses. You have to learn to bend, to understand that your voice is not the voice. And if they want changes, you make them. Mark Twain once said that a novel is never finished, only abandoned, and I think that’s true, but Broken River authors abandon their children with a packed lunch (complete with smiley face note written on napkin), surplus army jacket, mace, a Swiss Army knife, and one of those flashlights you put on your head. And a ‘mommy loves you’ and a peck on the cheek. God love them for that. They care. And you have to, as well. If you don’t, well … you know.

I’m not a father so I don’t really know what I’m talking about here, but I’m assuming there’s a feeling you get when you hold a baby for the first time. Does it get real? I figure it gets real, then. When you spend months and months eating tuna from a can and pecking at a keyboard and making sure the kerning and keeping and hyphens and headers look right in InDesign, and then you send it to a printer and they send you copies and they are physical, real objects, resting there, looking up at you, you can almost see these big blue cartoon eyes, these helpless things that need you. So, you start to feel an obligation.

When you start a small press, you lack resources, usually. And that should make you hungry. You need to provide for these babies. Your authors, they spent years writing these things, invested their lives into them. Now here they are. Your responsibility. You’ll want to quit, lord I know you will, because the whole thing is so big, like pressing your body up against the edge of everything. But you have to get out there, you have to keep your mind right, and you have to make people sit up and take notice. You didn’t pull a sword out of a stone; no one ordained you the Chosen One. You chose you. It’s your responsibility. So go do it. If you love something, take that big Christmas dinner in your heart and break it down into MREs and dish it out to every person you meet, in small, manageable doses. They’ll feel it. They’ll know you’re down.

And then, you ask them to dance.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

brb

J David Osborne lives in Oklahoma with his wife and dog. He’s the author of two novels, a freelance editor and the editor-in-chief of Broken River Books. Please query at jdavidosborne@gmail.com.

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8. Writer Wednesday: Author Events Where You Can't Sell Books


I have an author event this Sunday that I've gone to for the past few years. It's not an event where I can sell books. (It's not even an event that focuses on books. The focus is local businesses.) I have a table to display my books, business cards, and SWAG to giveaway, but I am not allowed to sell anything. Why do I do this? Simple. Being an author isn't just about selling books. It's about sharing what we do and making people into readers.

At this event, I talk to people about writing in general—how I went from idea to book, how I found my agent, how I got published, and what I do on a daily basis. The amazing thing is that most of the people in attendance are non-readers, and yet they find authors interesting. I think it's because authors genuinely love what we do. Sharing my writing career with strangers is so much fun for me. Sure, some of these people take my business cards and order my books. I know because they come back the following year and tell me they bought one of my books and what they thought of it. That's great because of course I love getting sales, but it's not why I go to this event.

It's about making connections with readers and/or turning people into readers. I've also gotten invites to other author appearances each year from the people I speak with at this event. 

So marketing isn't just about selling copies of your books. Keep that in mind when you book your next event.

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9. Celebrating Around the Web

We woke up to rain today – hooray! When you're living through a California drought, every drop is celebrated :) I'm also celebrating the release of WISH YOU WEREN'T with friends around the internet. Here's where you'll find me this week:

  • Laurel's Leaves: I'm sharing some of my favorite research tips and giving away a WISH YOU WEREN'T prize pack.  
  • K. Troutte: I'm chatting with my friend and critique partner about my writing process.  
  • Geo Librarian: MG librarian Heidi Grange will be reviewing WISH YOU WEREN'T and giving away a prize pack. 

And that's just today!

On Wednesday, Tonja Drecker at Bookworm for Kids will be reviewing WISH YOU WEREN'T and giving away a prize pack. (Her blog recently received a Best of the Blogs award from Middle Shelf Magazine -- cool stuff!!) On Thursday, Melanie at Mel's Shelves will post her review and give away a prize pack. And on Friday, I'll be stopping by for an interview with Inspired Kathy at I am a Reader where she'll be giving away a prize pack as well. So many chances to win!

If you don't want to wait, you can always get your very own copy of WISH YOU WEREN'T from these magnificent retailers. And when you buy the print version from Amazon, you get a free e-book download, too -- bonus!

Amazon   |  Kobo  |  B&N  |   Smashwords  |   Solvang Book Loft


Thanks for celebrating with me!

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10. It Begins!

wishyouwerentblogtourbanner
Today starts the blog tour of awesome around the internet. Twelve stops, twelve chance to win a copy of WISH YOU WEREN'T and astronaut ice cream – yum!

Here's where you'll find me this week:

Monday: Mundie Kids (I'm guest posting about -- you guessed it -- wishing on stars!)
Wednesday: Cover2Cover (This time I'm talking about other ways to wish)
Wednesday: The (Mis)Adventures of a Twenty-Something Year Old Girl will be posting a review Friday: Sher A. Hart will have a book review

In addition to the tour, I'm thrilled that the esteemed Middle Grade Ninja will be featuring me this week on his amazing blog. Tuesday he'll do his Book of the Week review of WISH YOU WEREN'T and on Thursday, I'll be answering his famous 7 Questions Interview. If you're a writer and you've never visited the Middle Grade Ninja, do yourself a favor and go now. He's got interviews with agents, editors and writers like Sara Crowe, Tina Wexler, Kendra Levin, Lynne Reid Banks and Ingrid Law. Seriously cool interviews I'll be rubbing shoulders with!

If you're looking for more chances to win, the contest is still open over at Literary Rambles. You can win a copy of the book, a wish token and a pocket watch just like the one Tör uses to manipulate time in WISH YOU WEREN'T. (Although I don't guarantee that this watch will have the same magical properties as Tör's!)

Whew! It's going to be a busy week! I hope I'll see you around the web!

And just in case you forgot, you can always get your very own copy of WISH YOU WEREN'T from these magnificent retailers :)
Amazon   |  Kobo  |  B&N  |   Smashwords  |   Solvang Book Loft

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11. YA Mythbusters

Okay, let's face it--a lot of books and movies don't accurately address teenage life. Like, I, for one, have never hit my head on a chandelier while drunk-dancing, which unfortunately means that I haven't been caught by a conveniently-placed Heath Ledger, either (womp). So let's examine a few of the misconceptions, shall we?


  • Bullying isn't as bad as it used to be.
    • *DISCLAIMER: My concept of "used to be" is drawn almost exclusively from nineties chick flicks.* Bullying is different, sure. It's needling. In a lot of cases, it's subtle. Lots of passive-aggressiveness, gossping behind backs, snide remarks followed by "Ehmahgawd, I'm just kidding! Lighten up!" Honestly? I've seen two primary kinds of bullying:
    • First: within cliques. You fall in with a group of people, and you let them step all over you and talk down to you. So that they'll like you. So that you'll have someone to sit by at lunch. You swallow their crap, you wake up the next morning and do it all over again, and eventually, you forget how to stand up for yourself. Or why you should.
    • Second: there are certain kids that a grade or an entire school will mark as "okay" to bully. Maybe they're not good in social situations. Maybe they don't shower as often as everyone else. Maybe the committed some stupid faux pas in middle school and people still won't let go of it. Whatever the reason, these kids get bullied. Their classmates bully them, and the worst part is, they don't recognize it as bullying it. Once, I confronted one of my friends about her stupid comments to a kid in band, and she replied, "Oh, come on. Look at him. He brings it all upon himself." Hell, even the teachers do it.
    • Example: there was this story a while ago about a group of kids that voted someone unpopular onto a dance court, and how the school/community wouldn't stand for it. It was a beautiful story, but why was that news? Because it's rare. At my school, they've voted someone unpopular onto basically every dance they've held since my freshman year, and our administration barely even addresses it. It's horrible and disgusting and people don't think twice about playing a prank like that, because your part is so small. One click on the computer next to someone's name. You laugh. They don't. You don't ever think of yourself as the antagonist in a story. We are not villains. We are not heroes. We are hormonal. Sometimes we make mistakes, and sometimes we don't. 
VERDICT: BUSTED

  • Cliques aren't as bad as they used to be.
    • I have a friend who puts it like this: "They tell us not to label, but we can't help it. We put people in categories--it's biological. We label and then everyone tells us that labeling is bad, so we lie and say that cliques don't exist." To be clear, it isn't like Mean Girls. It isn't like there are the cool Asians and the nerds and the jocks, and no one intermingles. But there are definitely friend groups, and since my school is a very athletic-oriented one, most of them were formed around the teams you were a part of. And there's definitely a social hierarchy.
    • But then again, I've heard from friends at bigger schools that say that the social structures aren't as rigid as they used to be. It definitely depends on who you ask.
 VERDICT: I DON'T EVEN KNOW

  • Teens are lazy.
    • Here is a typical day for me:
      • 4:30 a.m. Wake up, write (this has been more sporadic this year, because damn, my bed is comfortable. And you could argue that most teens don't get up to meet a deadline. But a lot of sports teams have morning practices, and some classes are held during zero period. There's not a lot of sleeping in).
      • 6:30 a.m. Start getting ready for school: last minute homework, morning routine, etc (this also varies. Like, at the beginning of this year, my morning routine was pretty standard: makeup, hair, and so on. I gave myself a break on No Makeup Mondays and Sweatpants Fridays. Now it's No Makeup Everyday and I'm lucky if I wear real pants twice a week).
      • 7:45 a.m. Get to school, go to the coffee shop, etc.
      • 7: 55 a.m. - 3:10 p.m. School. There might be a study hall in there if you're lucky.
      • 3: 10 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. After-schools. Sports practices (though during tennis season, I rarely get home before seven. On game days, you get home anywhere between 8:30 and 11:30 or later. Games can be on Mondays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays. Except varsity football and boys' basketball, which have games on Fridays). When your sport isn't in season, you might be in the weight room, editing the newspaper, attending open gym, or doing some other extracurricular.
        • ALTERNATE: 4:00 p.m. - 9 p.m. (ish): this seems to be a popular work slot for most teens.
      • Whenever you get home, you finish everything else that needs to get done. I play piano, and I try to get in an hour or two of practice a day, but that's not always possible. We have two-three hours of Calculus homework 2-3 times a week. Three reading assignments for reading per reading. Spanish vocab tests, economics packets, and a lot of online work for science classes--all in all, anywhere from fifteen minutes to six hours of homework per night. Keep in mind that the six hours of homework could fall on a night on which we don't get home until ten or eleven.
    • So you see why it's frustrating when the protagonists in YA literature have no homework to worry about and don't seem to care about anything but their love interests? Jesus. Obviously I'd rather be thinking about Benedict Cumberbatch's cheekbones than conic parametric equations, but I also don't want to fail Calc. So drop some stuff, you suggest. Don't take on more than you can chew. You don't need to be in so many extracurriculars. BS. You do whatever you think it'll take to get into college. You snatch as many leadership positions as you can. You take every AP course even though you don't need most of them for the career you have in mind. And you claw your way along while trying to keep your class rank, in order to get scholarships.
VERDICT: BUSTED

  • Teens procrastinate.
    • Okay, so the psychologist Roy Baumeister once did this experiment during which he had two groups of students, right? He put one group of students in front of an oven full of baking cookies and gave them a bowl of radishes, saying the could eat as many radishes as they wanted but weren’t allowed to touch the cookies, and left them alone. The second group was allowed to eat as many cookies as they wanted. After thirty minutes, he gave both groups the same math problem. The group that got to eat cookies solved the problem way faster because the first group had already used up their store of mental energy. Willpower is a real thing, guys. After four years with a schedule like the one outlined above, you don’t have a ton of it. You replenish it with a good night of sleep and a good meal, right? But have to skip dinner at least a few times a week and get maybe five hours of sleep. My sleep deck is the goddamn Titanic. And it isn’t just me, it isn’t just because of writing—most of my friends are stressed. Like. I’m sitting here trying to remember if there’s one of us who hasn’t burst into tears at some point during this last year.
    • Another thing: all of our teachers, coaches, advisors, etc. tell us to prioritize. So we do. But prioritizing means that something has to come first, right? And everything else has to come after that, and that makes people mad. So prioritize really means this: Put my subject first. My sport. My club. And we’re in a stage of our lives where we really need to be liked, and when a teacher/coach/advisor is unhappy, we take it a lot harder than I think most people realize.
VERDICT: PFFT. EVERYBODY PROCRASTINATES

  • Teens are shallow.
    • So, I have a love affair with Buzzfeed. But this article pissed me off. At lunch on Friday, my friends and I talked about the gender gap, internalized misogyny, The Handmaid's Tale, and the tendency to fulfill expectations whether we want to or not. After school, we went out for coffee and talked about statutory rape, abortion, tried to figure out our political opinions, and acted out scenes from Frozen.
VERDICT: YOU DECIDE


  • And a personal peeve: High school dances are no longer a thing.
    • A lot of schools have done away with them due to low attendance, but the low attendance is caused primarily by rules about physical contact. For example, a few of our local schools saw a sharp decline in dance attendance after forbidding grinding. People don't buy tickets because the high school dance becomes more of a middle school formal, wherein you stand in your stupid little gender-segregated circles and jump around in time to the music. Less attendance = fewer tickets sold = less money to hire a DJ and buy decorations = crappy music and crappy decorations = an even small attendance for the next dance. So if schools do away with dances, that's usually why, not because we're too busy snapchatting/Facebooking/Tweeting/etc. But on the other hand, schools that do allow grinding tend to have pretty high attendance numbers. So are high school dances dying out? Should they? Meh.
    • Also: Jeez, CNN. Lighten up on the nostalgia. If you want, you can come to my school and relive your prom in our cafeteria, where on dance nights you walk in and smack into an almost-literal wall of heat slide around on the very literally sweat-soaked floors.
VERDICT: BUSTED


What do you guys think? Did I miss anything important? Leave below in the comments, and I'll do another post. Also, what do you guys think of having a Twitter chat about this? YA authors, do you have questions or want to do a fact-check on your contemp manuscripts?

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12. Why I Published 4 Novels in 6 Months

J.E. Fishman

Hi, WD community! Today we’re sharing a guest post from J.E. Fishman, a former editor and literary agent turned author. He has penned Dynamite: A Concise History of the NYPD Bomb Squad and the novels Primacy, Cadaver Blues, and The Dark Pool. His Bomb Squad NYC series of police thrillers launches this month with A Danger to Himself and Others, Death March, and The Long Black Hand. In September comes Blast from the Past. He divides his time between Chadds Ford, PA, and New York City.

Today he shares a somewhat unconventional decision to publish four—yes, four—books in less than a year. Here he is:

This is the story of how I decided to publish four novels in six months. It begins with a general principle, which is that writing in any form—and certainly storytelling—is a means of communication. I have never subscribed to the belief that writers write solely for themselves.

Even Emily Dickenson, so reclusive that she rarely left her room, sent poems off to be published (although only a dozen or so appeared in print during her lifetime). This proves to me that she must have imagined a reader out there somewhere on the other side of the window for the 1,800 unpublished poems that she also wrote. Shyness couldn’t stop her voice from crying out through the tip of her pen. She wanted to be heard.

It is the same for all who write successfully, I think. (By success, I mean creating what we set out to create, not necessarily raking in the bucks.) We deeply desire to give voice to something within us, and we want someone out there to read our stories. How do we accomplish these twin goals?

As anyone knows who’s attempted to write, while stories still reside solely in our heads, they contain a kind of perfection that we rarely manage to preserve when we attempt to express them in print. And it’s the same with our efforts to bring them out into the light of day. In the perfect world, we can write whatever we want whenever we want to write it, and readers yearn for every word we produce. In the real world, we operate with constraints and may never get discovered.

As a novelist, I think it pays to be aware of the three aspects of the storyteller’s endeavor. First, every story begins with something that interests the author. Second, if storytelling is a form of communication, we must take account of the reader. Finally, an increasingly disrupted marketplace challenges us to find our audience — or, more to the point, to induce them to find us.

 

Inspiration

Sometimes I feel as if I have a new story idea every day. These stories might float up to me unbidden while I’m driving in the car or dozing off on the couch. But most of the time something instigates them. It could be an item in the news or another work of art or an experience I had. I’ll think, “That would make a great story,” and then I’ll mull over how I might go about telling it.

And then, most of the time, I don’t write that story. I could plead limitations of time — life intervening or some other writing project currently claiming my efforts — but the real reason most of these stories don’t happen is that they’re not ripe. Their day may come, but not yet. Some story ideas marinate this way for years.

Once in a while, however, a story idea comes along that I personally find so compelling I can’t get it out of my head. So it was with my new series, Bomb Squad NYC

.

Five years ago, my wife, my daughter and I left the New York area for the Brandywine Valley outside Wilmington, Delaware, not far from Philadelphia. We left, but we didn’t leave with both feet, as we decided to buy a smaller house and throw in for an apartment in Manhattan’s West Village, which we visit with some regularity.ADangerToHimselfAndOthers-3dLeft-Trimmed

We love going to the theater in New York, seeing independent films, window shopping, and the whole foodie scene. Admittedly, we’re pretty spoiled, although the apartment is a petite one-bedroom, and when we’re all in town my daughter sleeps on a pull-out couch.

To the occasional visitor, New York must appear to be an overwhelming agglomeration, but it’s really a collection of distinct neighborhoods, each with its own personality and its quirks. The West Village has become known for its restaurants and access to the Hudson River park, but one of its less remarked-upon features resides in a pair of nondescript garages at the rear of the local police precinct.

When we walked past those closed garage doors we noticed painted shields upon them indicating the headquarters of the NYPD Bomb Squad. One summer evening, as we returned from dinner, we found the doors open wide with a number of cops (all detectives, I’ve since learned) hanging out with a dog in front of the response trucks. We had a nice chat, and they showed us the robots they use. I learned that this wasn’t any old bomb squad, it was the Bomb Squad — the one that strives to keep all of the city safe from explosive devices.

As we walked away from the garage that night, heading for our apartment, it hit me: These guys deserve their own series. Not, I hasten to add, because they’re heroes — although they are. But because, from my perspective as a novelist, their existence carries with it a motherlode of storytelling material that has largely remained untapped.

Lots of bombs go off in thrillers and other novels, of course, but the bomb guys typically get only subplots, if any acknowledgment at all. Few novelists have attempted to crawl inside their heads. I wanted to explore not only what these guys do—which can be highly technical—but how they think, the challenges they face, how they experience life.

For many months I couldn’t get the NYPD Bomb Squad out of my head (news flash: I still can’t!), and the more I thought about it, the more compelling the material looked to me. I decided to pursue the subject with all the vigor I could bring to it.

 

Creation

I began this series the only way a writer can ever begin anything: with an interest in the subject matter. But then, if writing is primarily a means of communication, how would I connect to the reader? It soon occurred to me that these novels should take the form of thrillers.

The ticking time bomb is the essence of suspense. (Remember Alfred Hitchcock’s explanation: “Four people are sitting around a table talking about baseball or whatever you like. Five minutes of it. Very dull. Suddenly, a bomb goes off. Blows the people to smithereens. What does the audience have? Ten seconds of shock. Now take the same scene and tell the audience there is a bomb under that table and it will go off in five minutes. The whole emotion of the audience is totally different … Now the conversation about baseball becomes very vital. Because they’re saying to you, ‘Don’t be ridiculous. Stop talking about baseball. There’s a bomb under there.’”) But it needn’t be an actual time bomb. In some sense any bomb that has not yet detonated is a time bomb. As Hitchcock suggested, the fact that a bomb might soon go off at any moment engages the audience’s attention. Therefore, I concluded, these books called for the thriller genre.

DeathMarch-3dLeft

I also concluded pretty quickly that the novels should have a “police procedural” element to them, which is to say that they should give readers a level of technical detail about police work that goes beyond what they’d get from less immersive sources. But here I faced a daunting challenge. I didn’t know any cops, let alone bomb technicians, and I could hardly spend my research time standing on the street and waiting for those garage doors to open again.

Fortunately, by pursuing the proverbial six degrees of separation (the details are a story for another day—but it only required three degrees, to be honest), I eventually hooked up with the commander of the very squad I wanted to write about, Lieutenant Mark Torre. Mark already had some experience providing feedback to novelists, among them Patricia Cornwell. We met and hit it off, and he agreed to act as my technical consultant for the entire series, giving me insights and a degree of accuracy that I was unlikely to achieve any other way.

With my novels roughly using the storytelling conventions of thrillers, and with Mark looking over my shoulder, I set about plotting and writing the first book, A Danger to Himself and Others

.

The more I learned about the real world and about my characters, the more ideas I had for other stories and plot points. Using an ensemble cast, I could see a whole series stretching before me. I’d write two more, however, before rushing into print, because a final consideration remained: How best to bring this series to the public.

 

Publishing

We all know that book publishing faces forces of massive disruption. Online sales … ebooks … the power of Amazon … publishers consolidating … bookstores closing … the rise of indie publishing … All of these factors can be summed up thusly: It’s easier to get your work out there than ever before, but harder than ever before for a given work to get noticed.

Depending upon personality, one might take the changing landscape as an exciting challenge or a soul-crushing obstacle. I look at it this way: A writer’s gotta write and—eventually—a writer’s gotta publish. It’s just what we do.

In that context, it’s worth noting that we’ve sort of been here before. Mark Twain is reputed to have said (he probably didn’t really say it, but never mind), “History doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme.” When it comes to publishing, ebooks are relatively new, but disruptive technology isn’t.

Perhaps one can hark back to what the monks thought of Gutenberg’s printing press, but I have something much more contemporary in mind. The publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin, among others, has observed

that there are many parallels between the introduction of mass market paperbacks and ebooks.

Without rehashing the entire history of mass market paperback publishing, let’s acknowledge three important elements that impacted the market then and are doing so again: (1) new means of distribution; (2) discount pricing; and (3) binge consumption.

First, neither the distributors of mass market paperbacks nor those of ebooks were content to distribute through old channels. In both instances they realized that new customers could be found for books outside the bookstore. In the case of mass market, that meant newsstands, drugstores, and grocery stores. In the case of ebooks, it meant cyberspace.

Second, technological advances allowed both of these media to set price points well below the price of a hardcover. In fact, the sweet spots of original mass market and current ebook pricing share a ratio. They both correlate closely to approximately 10 or 15 percent of the price of a hardcover book.

Third, as prices drop and novels become more accessible, the average reader can consume with more intensity.

It’s interesting to see all of the press lately about “binge” watching of television series, because binge consumption of genre fiction has been around since the advent of so-called dime novels and continued through the introduction of mass market paperbacks. I distinctly recall my wife discovering mystery writer John D. MacDonald in the ’80s and almost immediately purchasing every Travis McGee mass market paperback she could find. (In those days she had to comb multiple bookstores.) She wouldn’t have behaved the same way for books priced ten times higher.

But many authors who made a name for themselves via mass market publishing encouraged binge reading from the early days. Consider that MacDonald published four Travis McGee novels in 1964 alone. Ed McBain, whose 87th Precinct series is something of a model for my own, published 54 of those books in 50 years, but 13 in the first five.

Yet by the standards of a few other novelists, those guys were slackers. Louis L’Amour, the legendary writer of westerns, published 100 novels in 37 years. The great science fiction novelist Isaac Asimov published 506 books in 32 years. When I was at Doubleday, just managing Isaac was nearly a full-time job for one of my colleagues.

To take another example, romance author Nora Roberts has published more than 200 books in 31 years and is still going strong. The British mystery author John Creasey, writing under several different pseudonyms, published 600 novels in 41 years.primacy-book-feature

And in a career spanning 75 years, Barbara Cartland, the mother of all romance writers, published 722 novels. Think of it. That’s almost ten novels a year. In 1983 she published 23 novels!

Does that sound like madness? In a sense, of course it is. But my subject today isn’t what kind of mind it requires to be so so! so!! prolific. It is simply to say that this stream of material made great business sense in the mass-market-paperback age, and it makes great business sense at the dawn of the ebook age.

All of the authors mentioned above wrote genre fiction, and all of them wrote at least a few series. That’s not a coincidence.

Reading novels is an investment not so much of money but of time. Through their buying habits genre readers have told us that they’re more inclined to purchase the books in a series that’s well established. (If the series is working, sales build over time.) But these days, when so many things compete for an audience’s attention, how many opportunities does an author get to establish that series? The answer is: not many.

The triumph of mass market houses in the last century, combined with the rise of mall bookstores and superstore chains, led to the mass marketization of hardcover fiction, whereby authors like Sue Grafton, Lee Child, and John Grisham—to name but a few—could make their names with a single book and subsequently release one title a year to great fanfare.

But if ebooks are the new mass market paperbacks—and I think they are—we’re in a time when newer writers will have to resurrect the old mass market approach to establishing their brand. It isn’t easy, and I won’t be catching up to John Creasey anytime soon. But four books in six months makes a start.

 

 

 

 

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13. Where can I find great diverse children’s books?

Recently The New York Times paired articles by Walter Dean Myers and his son Christopher Myers, discussing the lack of representation of people of color in children’s literature. Those excellent articles—which pointed out that in the long history of children’s literature we haven’t made much progress—caught the attention of best-selling author Jennifer Weiner, who started the #colormyshelf hashtag on Twitter asking for suggestions of diverse books that she could go purchase for her daughter. What a wonderful way to bring attention to what parents can do!

Just because diverse books don’t always show up front and center in bookstores doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Here’s a list of places to find great diverse books for young readers. Buy them, read them, recommend them. Showing demand for diverse books is one of the best ways to encourage the publication of more of them!

1. PublishersSeveral small publishers (us included) focus on diverse books. They’re a great place to start, and you can usually buy books from them directly, order them through an online retailer like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or ask your local bookstore to order them (which also displays a demand for diverse titles):

Lee & Low Books (diverse books for young readers featuring a range of cultures)Rainbow Stew image
Tu Books, an imprint of Lee & Low (diverse middle grade and young adult speculative fiction)
Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low (bilingual English/Spanish picture books)

Cinco Puntos Press (adult and children’s literature, and multicultural and bilingual books from Texas, the Mexican-American border, and Mexico)

Just Us Books (black interest and multicultural books for children and young adults)

Roadrunner Press (fiction and nonfiction for young readers focusing on the American West and America’s Native Nations)

Piñata Books, an imprint of Arte Público (juvenile and young adult books focused on Hispanic culture and by U.S. Hispanic authors)

Groundwood Books (Canadian publisher of books for young readers with a focus on diverse voices)

2. Blogs That Recommend Diverse BooksThere are some great bloggers out there who do the hard work of seeking out, reading, and recommending diverse children’s books, so you don’t have to! Just hop over to their blogs to find great new books to add to your collection:

The Brown Bookshelf (African American books)

American Indians in Children’s Literature (Native American books)

Latinos in KidLit (Latino books )

BookDragon (all diverse books, with a special focus on Asian/Pacific Islanders cultures)

Diversity in YA (diverse young adult books)

Rich in Color (diverse books for all young readers)

Crazy QuiltEdi (diverse books for all young readers)

Lee & Low Pinterest Board (diverse books searchable by genre and age)

playground image from Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash

3. AwardsIf you’re simply looking for the best of the best that’s been published each year, awards are the place. Books that win these awards have been vetted by experts (mostly librarians) so you can expect them to be top quality, beautiful, and culturally accurate.

Coretta Scott King Award (African American books)

Pura Belpré Award (Latino books)

Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature

Middle East Book Award

American Indian Youth Literature Award

South Asia Book Award

Américas Book Award (Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino books)

Tomás Rivera Book Award (Mexican American books)

Notable Books for a Global Society (outstanding trade books that help promote understanding across lines of culture, race, sexual orientation, values, and ethnicity)

4. Bookstores: If you prefer to purchase your books through good old-fashioned browsing, there are several great independent bookstores that make it a point to stock diverse books. Below are a few we’ve been to, or that have been recommended to us by readers. If you’re in the area, be sure to stop by to support them!

Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA

Calamus Bookstore, Boston, MAGirl Reading, from Destiny's Gift

La Casa Azul New York, NY

Quimby’s, Chicago, IL

Women and Children First, Chicago, IL

The Book Stall, Winnetka, IL

Politics and Prose, Washington DC

Busboys and Poets, Washington DC

The Flying Pig Bookstore, Shelburne, VT

Birchbark Books, Minneapolis, MN

Ancestry Books, Minneapolis, MN (coming soon)

Antigone Books, Tucson, AZ

Wellesley Books, Wellesley, MA

Librería Martinez, Santa Ana, CA

What did we miss? Let us know in the comments!


Filed under: Diversity Links, Publishing 101 Tagged: book awards, Bookstores, colormyshelf, diversity, multicultural, multicultural books, publishing, resources

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14. Meg Wolitzer Gets Inspiration From Sylvia Plath in New YA Novel

belzhar_custom-361c0db947a535a4c4d293f4127847c2547cc338-s2-c85Author Meg Wolitzer is working on a new YA novel inspired by Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar called Belzhar.

“My narrator is a sixteen-year-old girl named Jam Gallahue who’s dealing with a tragic loss. She’s sent to a boarding school in Vermont for “emotionally fragile, highly intelligent” teenagers. While there, she is put into a tiny, elite class that reads only one writer a semester. And this semester the class is reading Sylvia Plath,” Wolitzer explained in an interview with NPR. “Plath’s work, and her emotional problems, not to mention her journal-writing, take on important dimensions for all the students in the class, who are also asked to write in their own journals, and who, when they do, experience something startling.”

Dutton Children’s Books, an imprint of Penguin, will publish the new work in September.

 

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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15. This week over on Once Upon A Sketch

I've posted the first of my two part interview with Susan Eaddy, clay illustrator and the Illustration Coordinator for the SCBWI Midsouth region. Susan is always generous with her time and advice. Her videos are just fun to watch and make me want to have a go at iMovie. Go check it out.












Also from my continued reading assignment for 2014 here's my fave picture books from the past month:

Sometimes I Forget You're A Robot by Sam Brown - very sweet story about getting what you want. I especially loved the plaintive "beep beeps" of the Robot as he tries to show the main character what he CAN do.

The Twins' Blanket by Hyewon Yum - A great story about learning to share. I especially love how Hyewon Yum manages to capture the different personalities of each twin in very little text.

The Block Mess Monster by Betsy Howie, illustrated by C.B. Decker - the illustrations really knock this story out of the park as Becker shows extravagant expression on the part of the child, the mom, and the blocks who don't want to be put away.

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16. It's Finally Here!!

Pardon me for shouting but I'm SO EXCITED!!!

IT'S FINALLY HERE!!

And yes, I may be a bit biased, but isn't it beautiful?!



Here's what a few AWESOME people have said about WISH YOU WEREN'T:

“If you’re looking for the same old formula middle grade fantasy, this isn’t it. Wish You Weren’t is magically real. You wouldn’t be surprised if you met Marten in “real” life, but what he encounters in this story is pure magic.” ~VALERIE HOBBS, award-winning author of Wolf, Sheep and Minnie McClary Speaks Her Mind

“Wish You Weren’t is a sweet story about the blessings of family contained within the rip-roaring roller coaster of time travel. It is a page turner that kids are going to love!” ~KATIE D. ANDERSON, bestselling author of Kiss & Makeup

I love all the science details mixed with fantasy in Wish You Weren’t — just the kinds of flights-of-science-fancy I wish I had as child!” ~SUSAN KAYE QUINN, bestselling author of the Mindjack Trilogy, Faery Swap and Third Daughter

“Fun and accessible, rich with realism and heart, this magical adventure reminds us of the things truly worth wishing for.” ~CASEY McCORMICK, literary agent intern and blogger at Literary Rambles


And where's where you can get your own fantabulous new copies!


Amazon    Kobo    B&N    Smashwords    Solvang Book Loft


Thursday I'll be guest posting at Susan Quinn's incredible blog.
Friday I'll be guest posting over at Literary Rambles.

There will be prizes of awesome at both sites, including free books! So be sure to visit their blogs. 

And now I'm going back to what I was doing before: caressing the glossy covers and grinning like a fool :D

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17. Publishing Your Work Part One - The Basics

Now Playing -  Creepin' Up The Back Stairs by The Fratellis   Life -    Over the past few weeks I've had an unusual number of people ask me about resources for publishing their own work and I figured rather than cutting and pasting the response to everyone, I'd make a blog I could send people to. Obviously, this is far from complete and I'm not going into extreme depth on most

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18. Looking In, Looking On

I remember back in the mid 90s going to buy a car with my then husband. While we were initially impressed with the presence of black sales reps who approached us, it didn’t take more than a couple of visits to realize that the black sales reps were assigned to black customers.

I was reminded of this experience when I read Walter Dean Myers’ recent editorial.

Years ago, I worked in the personnel office for a transformer firm. We needed to hire a chemist, and two candidates stood out, in my mind, for the position. One was a young white man with a degree from St. John’s University and the other an equally qualified black man from Grambling College (now Grambling State University) in Louisiana. I proposed to the department head that we send them both to the lab and let the chief chemist make the final decision. He looked at me as if I had said something so remarkable that he was having a hard time understanding me. “You’re kidding me,” he said. “That black guy’s no chemist.”

I pointed out the degrees on the résumé that suggested otherwise, and the tension between us soared. When I confronted my superior and demanded to know what about the candidate from Grambling made him not a chemist, he grumbled something under his breath, and reluctantly sent both candidates for an interview with the chief chemist.

Simple racism, I thought. On reflection, though, I understood that I was wrong. It was racism, but not simple racism. My white co-worker had simply never encountered a black chemist before. Or a black engineer. Or a black doctor. I realized that we hired people not so much on their résumés, but rather on our preconceived notions of what the successful candidate should be like. And where was my boss going to get the notion that a chemist should be black?

Publishing more books out by authors of color seems like such an obvious solution to so many problems, however the problem of not enough books with characters of color does not exist in a vacuum.

Numerous people have suggested ways to change what is published and many of these people work outside publishing as do I. I’ve never attempted to write a book, never visited a publishing house and have never tried to obtain an agent. My criticisms of this industry are a bit like Sandra Bullock cursing the universe when she realizes her spaceship had no fuel.

But, I see things and it makes me wonder.

I’ve read too many books by authors of color where the author is truly skilled, the story is fresh, entertaining and well developed. Yet there were shortcomings that ranged from flaws in world building, lacking character development, or the lack or a good sense of setting. Who edits these books?

I know that when artwork and teaching materials is needed for a book, the preference is to assign the project to a person of the same ethnic group.  I can’t identify the thought process behind this. Is a book so “Black” or so “Latino” that only people from that ethnic group will relate well enough to the story to develop it correctly? Or, do we just not work together if we don’t have to?

Isn’t it the oddest thing that we see so many creating ways to help Whites write books about people of color rather than identifying and publishing more authors of color and Native Americans? And don’t tell me authors of color don’t exist! Where are the new books by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich? Neesha Meminger? Sheba Karim? Padma Venkatraman? Derrick Barnes? Alex Sanchez? Kelly Parra? Torrey Maldenado?

Creating a culture inside any industry where people understand the advantages to themselves as individuals, their company and even society as a whole is something that no one outside that industry can force.

I don’t believe there will be more books by authors of color until those in publishing understand that they can mentor and edit someone of a different complexion, that they can be as demanding of these authors and have high expectations of them. Or unless more companies like Quill Shift Agency, 7th Generation Press, Cinco Puntos or Just Us Books exist to innovate alternative avenues of success.

When CBC Diversity first formed, I wondered why they didn’t reach out to those outside their industry to build an alliance. There are so many people who address diversity from so many perspectives that it would have to be empowering to bring them all together. But, as I’ve come to believe I understand problems within the industry, I can’t help but applaud these individuals for trying to do something that certainly will not increase their popularity in their own offices. They best know the limitations inside their industry and what changes need to be made.

How can I end this on a positive note? Well, I cannot ignore all the voices (predominantly female, I must add) that continue to fight the good fight. In many different ways and in many different corners, there are people who are passionately trying to make a difference for young readers. Because right there, those pages in the hands of a young child will color their entire worldview. We have to keep hoping because there is no change without hope. We have to keep our ear to the ground and listen for those who are beating a new path. We can move beyond talk and take action. And, we have to continue questioning this industry.

 

 


Filed under: culture, Diversity Issues Tagged: diversity, publishing, racism, walter dean myers

1 Comments on Looking In, Looking On, last added: 3/17/2014
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19. What’s Changed in Publishing?

TransformationI’m blogging at Books & Such today. Here’s a preview:
 
I began blogging as an agent in January of 2008, and it’s remarkable to look back over my past posts and notice how much has changed in six years. When I started, I didn’t even have a Kindle. Now my family owns five Kindles plus iPads and various other electronic devices, and I wouldn’t want to do this job without them.
 
I wrote posts back then about how there was a stigma to self-publishing and I warned writers against it— if they wanted to be taken seriously. Now self-publishing is a normal and accepted option for writers.
 
I wrote about how e-books were a minuscule percentage of any author’s total books sold.
 
I was not even on Twitter until a year after I started the blog (January, 2009). Facebook and Twitter were still optional and sort of curiosities.
 

What else has changed in the book business?

 

  • The closing of Borders was an epic blow to the industry, many independent bookstores have closed, and pundits frequently discuss the future of Barnes & Noble.

 
Click HERE to read the post at Books & Such.

 

 

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20. Associate Publisher Wanted: The Sun

We need a full-time Associate Publisher to direct business operations, finance, and personnel at The Sun, a nonprofit, ad-free magazine in its forty-first year of publication. This position is in our editorial office in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The job requires a head for business, a heart for all that The Sun represents, and experience as a compassionate, skillful manager. We offer competitive compensation, excellent benefits, and an appealing work environment. Click here for details.

If you’re not interested in this position, will you please help us spread the word? 

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21. Melville House & Brooklyn Roasting Company Collaborate on Book-Inspired Coffee Blend

weirdnessCan’t get through the day without a cup of coffee? Melville House, a Brooklyn-based indie publisher, and the Brooklyn Roasting Company have collaborated to create a special blend called The Weirdness.

This limited edition concoction is inspired by Jeremy Bushnell’s debut novel which shares the same title. One of the scenes in the book features the protagonist, a writer named Billy Ridgeway, making a deal with Lucifer over freshly brewed coffee.

Michael Pollack, the owner of the Brooklyn Roasting Company, gave this statement in the press release: “We are thrilled to collaborate with one of our friends and neighbors. The relationship of coffee and reading is one of our core ideals.” Will you be trying this?

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22. Jungle Grumble: How it's Going to Look


I managed to get all my Jungle Grumble finishing work done in time, so that's me finished until proofs come back from the printer. 

The publisher is now setting up the final designs. My designer at Piccadilly sent me low-res versions of how the spreads will look with text. Now she has my finished digital illustrations, she will be fine-tuning the designs and placing all the text into position, ready for proofing. This is how the first spread is going to look:


They have also created designs for the 'extras', like the back cover and the title page, using sections from the existing illustrations. This is the title page design:


It's all perfect timing, because of course I am out of the studio most days at the moment, visiting schools. Today I am actually in a school in Sheffield, so nice and close for a change, but sadly no chance for train sketching.

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23. oik friday and the pfa for science

It's been a long while since I OIKed, and usually OIKing happens on Tuesdays, but this week we have a Friday Overheard in Kindergarten moment.  Actually we have more than one!  It's very important to maintain a sense of humor when the weeks are so irregular (our school system has not had a complete week of school since DECEMBER) and when the children are so irregular surprising.  Here are gems from yesterday which are evidence, I like to think, of children learning what I'm teaching:

K.MD.A.1Describe measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight. Describe several measurable attributes of a single object:
"Miss Jenson, have you lost waist?"

<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE <![endif]-->
3.1.C.2a. Examine a variety of living things and their offspring and describe what each parent and offspring looks like (we have been researching turtles particularly):

"Ms. Linney's baby is going to hatch soon!"

and, my personally resonating favorite (from Elmer, a recurring character)--

4.K.B.5 With guidance and support from adults, respond to questions and suggestions from peers and add details to strengthen writing as needed:

"It took me six months not to finish this!"

*************************
Revision

It took me six months
a lot of weeks at least
to remember what
I wrote

It took me six months
since I was still five
to read my
old words

It took me six months
and again today
to add one more
describing word

It took me six months
not to finish this!
and now tomorrow
I'm finally done!

HM 2014
all rights reserved

*************
I must say that this poem reflects the sorry state of Writing Workshop in my classroom this year.  Something about our funky schedule and the particularities of my class has meant that many, many days our scanty writing time just gets swallowed up by difficult afternoon transitions and the need for a movement break and an unusually large number of kids who don't find a focusing joy in expressing themselves on paper.  I've always taught kids that Writing Workshop is "our favorite time of the day," the most relaxed, self-differentiated activity we do, but we haven't been able muster that habit this year. " It's taken me six months not to finish this..." and it's a mighty disappointment, to tell the truth.

AND YET!  How thrilling that on the same day we have finally arrived at the possibility of publishing our writing, copies of the Poetry Friday Anthology for Science also arrived at my door.  I was able to open the awesome Fourth Grade Student Edition and show my "Cicada Magic" poem right there in a real book, with my name and everything!  And THEY were thrilled and excited for me and for themselves, to actually reach an end point and publish their writing in a finished-looking form.  Deep breath; renewed commitment.

I believe that most regular Poetry Friday participants have poems in this anthology, the delights of which I haven't yet had time to fully savor--but if somehow you haven't heard, do go and look at the riches which are now available for you, your students, your children, your scientist friends, your anybody!

Join Margaret at Reflections on the Teche for PF goodness today and all weekend.



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24. Write the Whole Book Before Pitching?

4679004_sI’m blogging at Books & Such today. Here’s a preview.

Classic wisdom for unpublished authors seeking traditional publication has been that if you’re writing a novel (fiction), you need a complete manuscript. If you’re writing non-fiction, you need a book proposal plus two or three sample chapters. If you’re writing a memoir, who knows — everybody has a different opinion.

Here’s what is true and will always be true: unpublished fiction authors MUST have a complete novel before trying to get an agent or publisher. No question, no exceptions.

But things are changing in publishing, especially when it comes to non-fiction. In some ways, the standards are higher. It’s more of a risk for a publisher to say “yes” to an unproven author. And in light of this reality, I’m going to make a bold and probably controversial suggestion.

No matter what you’re writing, even if you’re already published, even if it’s non-fiction or memoir:

Consider writing the whole book before you search for a publisher.

Why would I say such a thing? A few reasons:

1. It lowers the risk for the publisher.

Click here to read the whole post at Books & Such.

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25. Flatiron Books to Publish Oprah’s New Book in September

flatironFlatiron Books will publish Oprah Winfrey‘s new book What I Know For Sure in September. The book will be the first publication from Macmillan’s new non-fiction imprint Flatiron Books.

The book will include a collection of essays that Winfrey published over fourteen years in the O, The Oprah Magazine column “What I Know For Sure.”

The writing has been revised and updated for the new book. ”…the essays offer a rare, powerful, and intimate glimpse into Oprah’s inner life—her thoughts, struggles, and dreams—while providing readers a guide to becoming their best selves,” explains the press release. “Candid, moving, exhilarating, uplifting, and frequently humorous, the words Oprah shares in What I Know For Sure shimmer with the sort of truth that readers will turn to again and again.”

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