Three times I’ve been asked by lovely writer friends to participate in the Next Big Thing, a blog hop in which writers talk about their upcoming books. Tanita Davis and Gail Gauthier caught me in busy spells and I had to pass, with regrets—but I loved reading their posts and appreciated the invitation. This time, my SCBWI pal Andrea Zimmerman asked if she could tag me, and third time’s the charm. Gail, Tanita, Andrea—thanks, all of you, for thinking of me!
I’ll work on my answers soon, but for now, do hop over (it’s a blog hop, after all) and read about The Warthog Smoked (Andrea), Saving the Planet & Stuff (Gail), and Favorite Son (Tanita). And then you can follow their links to the other folks they tagged. Books books books books books, there is nothing better.
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Don’t forget to cast your vote in this year’s SCBWI Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards! Voting ends March 15.
Here are the finalists for the California/Hawaii division:
• Katherine Applegate, The One and Only Ivan ( HarperCollins Children’s Books)
• Tina Nichols Coury, Hanging Off Jefferson’s Nose: Growing Up On Mount Rushmore (Dial Books For Young Readers, Penguin Young Readers Group)
• Katherine Longshore, Gilt (Viking Children’s Books, Penguin Young Readers Group)
• Ginger Wadsworth, First Girl Scout, the Life of Juliette Gordon Low (Clarion)
• Melissa Wiley, The Prairie Thief (Margaret K. McElderry Books, Simon & Schuster)
You can see the other division finalists here. One Crystal Kite winner will be chosen for each division.
From the SCBWI website:
To cast a vote, go to your Member Home page, click on “See what’s going on in your region,” then on the Crystal Kites tab. The list of the finalists listed below will be there and all you have to do to vote is click the button next to the desired title for your region. [Note: To get to the voting buttons, you have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the finalist list.]
Please remember there is no campaigning of any kind for individual titles but you are encouraged to promote the awards in general using all social media! This includes but is not limited to blogging, tweeting or social networking of any kind.
Anyone participating in an individual voting campaign (promoting a specific title) will be disqualified. This is to ensure the votes are based purely on personal opinion.
Got this question in the comments yesterday, and since it’s an inquiry I get often, I thought I’d pull it up into a post here:
“Why have the Martha, Charlotte, Caroline and Rose books gone out of print? As a huge fan of Laura’s books I read all the books and the books about her family. Now being older I want to purchase them all for my own collection as the libraries are getting rid of them. It does not help that I am Canadian and have a hell of a time of even finding them! Do you know of any places that still carries them?”
When a publisher allows a book to go out of print, it pretty much always means one thing: the book isn’t selling very well anymore. Warehouse space is extremely expensive, and there’s a certain point when it becomes more costly for a publisher to store books that are selling slowly than to just remainder them.
The decision to shutter the Little House prequels and sequels happened before social media took off, so if HarperCollins ever decides to bring them back (particularly as ebooks, which has been discussed but doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon), we’d be able to give them a nice big push and I think they’d do very well.
You can sometimes find used copies on eBay or Amazon Marketplace, but they tend to be extremely expensive in those outlets. (I don’t get royalties on used book sales, so please know those crazy prices don’t have anything to do with me!)
Today is the launch day for Fox and Crow Are Not Friends, my Random House Step Into Reading title. Color me squee! I had an immense amount of fun writing this book. It begins with a retelling of Aesop’s fable about a fox, a crow, and a piece of cheese, and continues from there with new adventures in enmity. I thought it would be fun to explore what happened after that first famous encounter. And I know how much kids like a good fight. I had such a good time writing characters who were pretty much at each other’s throats the whole time.
The art is by the talented Sebastien Braun. He captured all the humor, whimsy, and furious glaring I was going for. I’m thrilled to bits.
Here’s what Kirkus had to say about it.
Today is also launch day for my pal Anne Marie Pace‘s delightful picture book, Vampirina Ballerina, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. It’s been racking up the great reviews. You can get a sneak peek of the interiors on LeUyen’s blog.
Pham and Pace are entirely in sync in this sweetly goth “how to” for vampirettes under the spell of something more powerful than anything the dark forces can muster: ballet….”The road to ballerinadom can be bumpy,” Pace reminds readers, and it’s not any easier when one is alarming to one’s classmates or occasionally turns into a bat. The underlying messages are familiar: there are no shortcuts to achieving an ambitious dream, and persistence and a sunny outlook (even when one is a creature of the night) pay off. But seldom have these lessons been expounded with so much charm.—Publisher’s Weekly
Back in June at ALA, the wonderful Allison Tran and her guest-host Lalitha Nataraj interviewed me about my new books, my old books, and basically all things book for the Authors Are ROCKSTARS! podcast. It’s live today—fun! They asked great questions and even let me gush about Betsy-Tacy a bit. Thanks, Alli and Lali! I had a ball chatting with you.
My Brave Writer podcast interview with Julie Bogart is up! We gabbed about my new books, our writing lives, encouraging our kids’ writing, homeschooling, blogging, and all kinds of things. Something there for everyone, not just homeschoolers. I loved getting to talk about the writing process with someone as on fire for the subject as Julie and could have gone on chatting all day.
If you have any questions about the topics Julie, her son Noah, and I discussed, please fire away!
School Library Journal on The Prairie Thief:
“Wiley has created a charming, inventive tale that reads like a delightful mash-up of Little House on the Prairie and Tony DiTerlizzi’s ‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’ (S & S). Short chapters and the air of mystery and suspense keep the pages turning, and readers will be taken with Louisa, who is sweet and mild-mannered, yet has the strength to fight for what is right. The writing is breezy and lyrical…[a] top-notch story.”
• The Prairie Thief at Kirkus
• The Prairie Thief at Jen Robinson’s Book Page
• Fox and Crow Are Not Friends at Kirkus
• Brave Writer podcast with Julie Bogart
• Author Spotlight at Writing on the Sidewalk
• Authors Are ROCKSTARS! podcast
• Author letter at Ready-to-Read
Coming up fast! Please join me on Saturday, Sept 29, at The Yellow Book Road bookstore in San Diego’s Liberty Station (2750 Historic Decatur Road) to celebrate the launch of Inch and Roly Make a Wish, Fox and Crow Are Not Friends, and The Prairie Thief.
Hope to see you there!
First up: Into the Thicklebit | Overheard.
Next thing: We’re talking books in the comments of this post—Kristin Lavransdatter and Papa’s Wife. Got other Scandinavian favorites?
Next thing, for San Diego locals: My signing’s on Saturday! Yellow Book Road @ beautiful Liberty Station in Point Loma, 3pm. Come! Say hi! Eat cookies! Listen to me attempt a Scottish accent! (Serves me right for writing characters in dialect.)
Book reviews & interviews.
Other shareworthy links in my sidebar.
We have an excursion to City Farmers Nursery planned for this afternoon. Rilla is planting her own butterfly garden. (The one that spans the width of our backyard isn’t enough for her, evidently.) She’s making a list. Excuse me, I mean a LEIST. So far, she’s got:
2. HOT PENK DRANEYOM (hot pink geranium)
I can’t wait to see what’s next.
3pm at The Yellow Book Road
2750 Historic Decatur Road, Barracks 15
Liberty Station, San Diego
A lovely children’s bookstore in a beautiful setting.
Hope to see you there!
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books review of The Prairie Thief:
“Frontier fiction and folkloric fantasy are an unusual combination, but they actually blend remarkably well here, and Wiley does a fine job of staying true to the pioneer inflections of Louisa’s story while effectively integrating the magical brownie…The effective mashup of popular genres will make this a hit with a variety of readers, so try handing it to Little House fans and folktale-lovers alike.”
School Library Journal, “Fresh and Fun | Books for Emergent Readers“:
Melissa Wiley retells and expands upon an Aesop’s fable in Fox and Crow Are NOT Friends (Random House, 2012; Gr 1-3). Three entertaining chapters describe how these two enemies repeatedly—and humorously—try to outwit one another to earn bragging rights along with a tasty piece of cheese. Sebastien Braun clearly depicts the animals’ antics with lighthearted artwork in sherbet hues. The straightforward text, amusing illustrations, and hilarious rivalry will encourage developing readers to persevere. Expand the reading experience by sharing other fables, and having your students come up with “what happens next…” scenarios.
(Bunch of other fun-looking books in that post I’m eager to check out.)
Sweet! I’ve been hinting about this for months, but I just got the green light to make the official announcement: my middle-grade novel, Not the Whole Truth, will be published by McElderry in 2012. I can’t wait!
I’ve told you about my early reader, Fox and Crow Are Not Friends, which will be published by Random House in 2013. That one has made it through copyediting and is with the art department now. This is a seriously exciting stage of the game: waiting to see who the artist will be. Suspense!
Meanwhile, I’m toiling away at the YA I’m writing for Knopf. Where “toiling” = “marveling that I get to write this book that I have wanted to write for a really long time.” And also: “toiling.” Because it is hard work. But good-hard, you know?
I’ve had another nice bit of book news but it’s too soon to spill it yet. But this bit, I’ve already gotten a peek at the art, and I’m feeling rather swoony.
I know blogging has been light here lately. I’m revising a novel—the middle-grade that’s coming out from McElderry next year—and still working on the YA for Knopf, and now, joy of joys, bits and pieces of art are starting to come in for certain other projects (I can’t wait until I’m allowed to share peeks at stuff, but it won’t be for a while yet), and in short this is just a busy busy busy time.
But VERY SOON the novel will go back to my editor, and I will breathe a huge, liberated breath, and I might even start reading books again.*
I can’t read novels when I’m deep in a revision. Can’t get anyone else’s story mixed up in my brain. Which means it was TERRIBLY FOOLISH of me to read a third of the way into Connie Willis’s Blackout right before my manuscript was due to arrive with my editor’s notes. That is not a book to leave lingering for weeks on end.**
*That was a joke. I’m on a Cybils panel—of COURSE I’ll be reading books. Graphic novels. Delicious. I’m salivating already, and compiling my list…
**Which means Blackout will be back-burnered even longer. WHAT WAS I THINKING??
What I’ve got on deck, since a few of you have asked:
• Middle-grade novel called NOT THE WHOLE TRUTH, forthcoming from McElderry in Fall 2012.
• Early reader called FOX AND CROW ARE NOT FRIENDS, coming from Random House in, guess what, Fall 2012!
• (Project I can’t announce quite yet, book #1 currently scheduled to pub in—you guessed it—Fall 2012.)
• YA novel in progress, under contract with Knopf & scheduled for…Spring 2013. Gotcha!
And the answer to: why the long hiatus since your last book? Easy. As long-time Bonny Glen readers know, Scott went back to a fulltime office job as a comic-book editor in the summer of 2006. Took me nearly four years of Saturdays to write my next book. (The aforementioned middle-grade.) I’ve always said the only reason I was able to write so many books during my Little House years was because Scott was also a work-at-home writer back then.
When DC Comics shuttered WildStorm last December, Scott took the severance and came back home to freelance. And zing, I’m working everyday again. It’s lovely. We miss the affordable healthcare, of course, but other than that it’s heaven having him home. He’s got a stunning number of books in the works with Disney and other publishers, he’s writing cool music stuff for AARP, and he does all the laundry, cooking, and shopping. Sweet deal for me, eh? I get to play with the kids all day and then closet myself away in the evenings and write write write. Most afternoons, I work from 3-9, with a dinner break. To eat the dinner someone else has made for me.
In his WildStorm days, he had long office hours and a long commute and didn’t get home until 7—on a good night. And after a full day of mom-duty with five or six kids, 7pm was just too late for my brain to be at all thinky. Ergo: whirlwind Saturday writing marathons and a much longer percolating time for NOT THE WHOLE TRUTH.
The freelance life may have its downsides—well, downside singular, since all I can think of is the healthcare situation, but that’s a doozie; would you believe we’re currently paying almost $2000/month for health insurance? And with our family medical history, we’re unlikely to bring that number down, though heaven knows I’m looking. So, well, the one major downside is that our cost of living is monstrously higher. But money, as we all know, isn’t everything. This is a great way to live. Long morning walks; days full of books, music, games, and art; no traffic, no meetings, no boss; fulfilling work to do and the freedom to do it; and the love of your life never more than a few rooms away.
Another quiet week here on the blog. I don’t think I’ve had a week so light on Bonny Glen posts since my Lilting House days! This field has been fallow because all my writing energies have gone elsewhere, and that’s a good thing, of course.
My garden has been neglected, too. Took me all week to remember to prop up the flopping morning glories. And I hadn’t noticed the yellow rose is blooming. Two great big blossoms had gone brown at the edges before I even noticed they existed. And my front yard looks like every spider in Southern California decided to decorate our place for Halloween. I need to go out there with a broom, but the thought makes me feel like Aunt Sponge. Or is it Aunt Spiker?
I’m still enjoying Glitch. When I’m working, the repetitive tedium of mining occupies the fussy part of my brain while the thinky part works on a tricky bit of dialogue, or a thorny pacing issue. When I’m not working, I enjoy the quests and—amusingly—the cooking. If real-life cookery were as simple as clicking on a pot, I’d be a regular Paula Deen.
I have lots of books to write about! A big Rillabooks post in the making. Maybe this evening, depending on the direction the day goes. I’m taking a computer break for most of today…got a hot date with a bunch of Cybils graphic novel nominees.
In fun booksy news, I got a peek at cover sketches for two of my upcoming books this week! One is a beginning reader, and I wish I had a photo of Rilla’s face when the sketch loaded on my screen. Big wide delighted smile, big gasp. “Oh, Mommy, they’re DORABLE!” she cried, referring to the characters. And this was before she puzzled out the title and realized it was Mommy’s book. She was this story’s first audience, and it’s been source of great joy to me that sometimes when I ask what book she’d like me to read her, she’ll ask for “the one that’s on your computer.”
Shannon Hale on writing:
Sometimes I wish writing a book could just be easy for me at last. But when I think about it practically, I am glad it’s a struggle. I am (as usual) attempting to write a book that’s too hard for me. I’m telling a story I’m not smart enough to tell. The risk of failure is huge. But I prefer it this way. I’m forced to learn, forced to smarten myself up, forced to wrestle. And if it works, then I’ll have written something that is better than I am.
Colleen Mondor on the difficulty of finding a book’s audience once it’s published:
There is less money out there to promote books like mine (mid list debut author) and more noise to compete against. Not only are there still the high dollar books sucking all the marketing oxygen out of the room (this will never change) but now there are a million self-published authors sending out emails on their indy publications and they are filling up inboxes left and right as well.
Somehow, in the midst of all this, I am supposed to still be a writer but now on something new, and still run a small business and still do all those other things that we all do. And I’m supposed to do this because this is just how it is now, this is what it is like for the average 21st century author. The question I’m weighing – seriously weighing – is if it is worth it. Is this life, where you feel overlooked and underappreciated and sometimes just flat out angry, the life I want to have? Did I expect a NYTimes best seller? No – please. But I expected just one – just one - response from all those emails and mailings. So I have to think long and hard about where I go from here and how far on this road I’m interested in traveling now that I know how lonely it gets.
Do read this whole post, if you care about books. Selling a book to a publisher is only the first hurdle. Getting it in front of readers’ eyes can be even harder. There’s maybe a six-month window of time when your publisher can put some effort into promoting your book—along with all the other books on that season’s list. As Colleen explains, only a few of those books will get a significant push. Much depends upon the efforts of the author: connecting with readers, arranging booksignings and school visits, attending conferences, participating in blog tours, doing all sorts of leg work. And usually, by the time the book does come out, you’re deep into the writing of the next one, possibly on deadline. It’s hard to climb out of the book you’re writing to help promote the book that just came out. And as Colleen notes, you’ve got about a six-month window of time for the new book to take off, or it may fade away altogether. Three months before launch date to three months after. If it fades, you may not get a contract for that next book. It’s all quite precarious.
Colleen’s book, by the way, sounds amazing. The Map of My Dead Pilots, about “flying, pilots, and Alaska—and, more specifically, about those pilots who take death-defying risks in the Last Frontier and sometimes pay the price.” Very much looking forward to reading it.
Julianna Baggott’s advice to a young novelist:
What I’d like to add is that it’s hard to go public with this very private endeavor — this thing that lives in the drawers of your desk — no matter how long you’ve worked toward it. And the catch is that you won’t be able to complain about it. People won’t understand. You got what
As I’ve mentioned, I have three new books coming out this August. Whee!
Middle-grade novel. Margaret K. McElderry Books. Art by Erwin Madrid. He has posted the full wraparound cover on his blog. Gorgeous, isn’t it? What he does with light just blows me away.
A Step into Reading Level 3. Random House. Illustrations by Sebastien Braun. I am crazy about his depiction of my characters—so much humor and personality in their expressions and body language.
A Simon Spotlight Ready-to-Read Level 1. Simon & Schuster. Illustrations by Ag Jatkowska. When Rilla, who had been hearing my Inch and Roly stories for months, saw Ag’s cover sketch she squealed. “Mommy! They’re DORABLE.”
Yes, we are a little bit excited.
At GeekMom again. Going to be a looooonnnng wait until Season 3…
At least there’s always Mad Men.
An aside: Last night on Twitter, Amy Kraft joked that she’d like to see early readers based on Downton. I spent the rest of the night entertaining myself (if no one else) with Downton Abbey: The Nursery Years.
We hid in the garden from the nasty governess.
Carson found us in the shrubbery.
Granny was quite put out.
What’s funny is that in its first incarnation, way back in 2006, my book that is now called The Prairie Thief was going to be set in an Upstairs/Downstairs-esque Edwardian household. We’d been watching U/D and I was captivated by the dynamics, especially the downstairs crowd; the main character was going to be the daughter of a servant. But about two chapters in, the whole story up and transplanted itself to a landscape I knew inside and out: the Colorado prairie. Eventually the story itself transformed into an entirely different tale. So I guess that original story is still lurking in my brain somewhere, awaiting its turn.
Won’t be soon, though; I’m neck-deep in a Whole Nother Book.
I just got the green light to share the cover of my second Inch and Roly book: Inch and Roly and the Very Small Hiding Place.
I’m so in love with it. Ag Jatkowska, my illustrator, is a marvel. I am so fortunate to get to work with such talented artists!
This will be my second book about Inch and Roly, an inchworm and roly poly who have adventures with their other bug friends. The first one, Inch and Roly Make a Wish, will come out in late August. These books are part of Simon & Schuster’s Ready-to-Read series for beginning readers—one of my favorite age groups to write for. I’m pretty excited about these.
Kirkus reviews Fox and Crow Are Not Friends:
The familiar fable about Fox and Crow, retold for new readers.
Youngsters will quickly understand the word “outfoxed” after reading these tales of flattery, greed and cheese, told as three connected short stories. Fox and Crow are enemies, fighting over one hunk of cheese as if it were the last morsel of food on the planet. It won’t take long for readers to giggle at just how far these two will go for the cheese. Fox gets the best of Crow in the first story, in which Fox flatters Crow into dropping the cheese directly into Fox’s mouth. Next, Crow dreams of ways to get the cheese back and spends every waking moment constructing a cunning trap, with stew-covered Crow as the lure. Success! Fox retaliates in the final chapter, but both critters are outsmarted by the watchful Mama Bear. Humorous watercolor illustrations are punctuated by thought bubbles showing the animal’s plans; other playful details include the owl’s eyes watching the shenanigans from a safe distance and the eventual sheepish looks when the enemies are trapped in the same net, with Mama Bear chastising them from the side.
Funny chapter titles will amuse adults, and subtle visual details make this a fable book that new readers will return to. (Early reader. 3-7)
Yippee! Oh, you guys, I can’t wait for you to see Sebastien’s art in this book. He did a marvelous job—so much humor and energy in his work. I’m over the moon.
It’s Comic-Con week, and you know what that means. Likely to be crickets around here these next few days. Not to mention, a certain dearly-missed daughter comes home midweek.
But for now, how about if I share a bit of excitement? The official link went up today so I guess it’s okay for me to spill the news that’s had me giddy these past few weeks: The Prairie Thief is a Junior Library Guild selection for 2012! It’s a great honor and I am thrilled to bits. To bits!
(I loved Brian Farrey’s post about his book being selected. Wowsers is right!)
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I know, I know, I’ve been AWOL! When’s the last time I went a week without posting here? (I know when: summer of 2005, when Wonderboy had surgery. Yeesh.) Well, my absence here is because I’m plugging away elsewhere…sometimes the supply of words is limited, you know?
But a few bits of news:
• A new strip at Into the Thicklebit
• A lovely Kirkus review of my friend Anne Marie Pace’s about-to-launch picture book, Vampirina Ballerina, illustrated by the talented LeUyen Pham.
• Vampirina shares a pub date (August 7) with my early reader, Fox and Crow Are Not Friends. It got a nice review at Kirkus, too (yippee!), which is now viewable by everyone, not just subscribers.
• This month, my upcoming Inch and Roly series gets the spotlight at the Ready-to-Read website, including a letter from me to readers. Whee!