Monday, December 17, 2012

The Best Thing I Did as a Debut Author

My debut year is almost over. It was an absolute whirlwind.

Soon there will be other writers experiencing the wonder and madness of their debut years. I could sit and wax long and lyrical about everything I learned this year. (Truthfully, I could also wax long and lyrical about all the questions I still have.)

Still, I know there are things all debut authors have to see and experience for themselves: you really wouldn't believe me if I told ya!

That being said, there is one solitary piece of advice I do have: I can, without a doubt, tell you the best thing I did as a debut author.

The very best thing I did as a debut author was...[drumroll please]...join the Apocalypsies and the Class of 2K12.

I truly cannot imagine having gone through this year without the collective wisdom of such a talented and supportive bunch. I partook in multiple events because of them, things I never would have been able to organize on my own. They were the world's biggest mega-transmitters for a debut author: tweeting and amplifying book news of all sorts. We even made silly music videos together.

But, most importantly, they were good friends and such a unique support system: one that could understand all of my biggest worries and fears. If there was an edit letter to discuss, or a marketing strategy to explore, they were the world's best sounding board. They were full of advice, full of humor, and full of pathos. And nobody can pick you up when you're feeling down in the dumps about your writing, your career, or even life in general like an amazing group of people in the proverbial same boat.

So if you are a debut author now or in the future...find this group. I know they'll be there and that this support system will continue. The Lucky Thirteeners, the Class of 2K13, and beyond.

And to the amazing Apocalypsies and Class of 2K12: one big, heartfelt THANK YOU. For filling my bookshelf and mind with your amazing stories, and for filling my heart with your generosity of time and spirit. I will never, as long as I live, forget this year. And I will never forget sharing it with you.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

It's an Honor Just to be Nominated

I know the title of this post sounds like schmaltz people say in Oscar red carpet interviews...but it's actually quite true!

Yesterday, I found out that The Mapmaker and the Ghost was nominated for Best Middle Grade Fantasy 2012 and Best Middle Grade Paranormal 2012 in the YA Books Central Choice Awards. I was also nominated for Favorite Middle Grade Author 2012.

Looking at some of the books that Mapmaker is keeping company with (and I've read quite a few of them), I truly am honored. Not to mention, it's always a very pleasant surprise to be recognized at all, especially in such a crowded field.

You can vote for the winners of the YABC Choice Awards until December 31st. Please do go and vote for your fave YA, MG and PB books of the year (whether that be Mapmaker or not)! Vote here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Holiday Giveaway: Free Signed Bookplates and Bookmarks!

For the record, I love the holidays, and I especially love the holidays in New York. I am a simple girl in a lot of ways: give me some colored lights and tinsel and life is basically peachy keen.

But I digress.

Need a stocking stuffer or Hanukkah gift? I'm giving away free signed Mapmaker and the Ghost bookplates and bookmarks to the first 20 people who sign up using the form below. (U.S. addresses only please). And, just so you know, the bookmark has a special code that will lead you to some exclusive, bonus content. I will also personalize the bookmark if you leave me a name in the form below.



Why, they would be perfect for inserting into a gifted copy of The Mapmaker and the Ghost, don't you think?

If you're looking for more awesome and personalized free swag from authors, look no further than this Apocalypsies post that gathers a bunch of them into one place.

Happy, happy holidays from Goldenrod and the gang!

Update: This giveaway is now closed.

Monday, December 3, 2012

It's the End of the Year as I Know it...and I Feel Fine

I've been thinking about how to write a post about the end of this wild and crazy year for a while now. And then I ran across this interview with David Lynch.

He said,

"There is that expression, 'Man has control of action alone, never the fruit of the action.' So you better enjoy the doing of a thing and not worry about the outcome."

And I realized: that sums it up perfectly.

I spent almost two years anticipating 2012: the year my debut book was published. And now that it has come and gone I can safely say it was one of the most exhilarating but also most gut-wrenching years of my life.

The fact of the matter is that having a life-long dream come true can be a double-edged sword. It's been joyous and exciting. But this is also real life (not the world of fiction I so love to get lost in), and nothing comes without its downsides. Finding out the downsides of a pristine dream can be gutting. And, at times, I felt like I had my dream swept out from from under me.

Even though getting published is amazing, it also doesn't change much of my everyday writing life. I still need to work a full-time job and write on my off time. I still have the same amount of rejections to deal with (maybe even more since there is now a new bonus level: professional and reader reviews). I still have to work through all of that to create something publishable.

But I've been very slowly relearning something I used to know before all this publishing brouhaha came into play: I write because I love it and because it is a part of me. As Mr. Lynch says, it's the enjoying of the thing itself. That is all I can control and that is all I can ever count on.

So my new dream? Is to get back to that. Writing so that I can be the best version of me, so that I can get these voices out of my head and create, create, create. The rest is the fruit. It's tasty and all, but it cannot be my goal. I'm just not programmed that way.

So what are my final words to this soul-searching year? I'm grateful to you, 2012. And I'm grateful to you, whoever and wherever you are, for being here and reading.

Happy, happy holidays to you and here's to a very happy, healthy and exciting new year!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Do You Want to Win 22 Awesome YA/MG Books?!

I'm going to go ahead and assume the answer to my rhetorical blog post title is...YES!

It's the end of our debut year at the Class of 2K12 (sob!) and we're ready to go out with a bang: by giving one lucky winner a signed copy of all of our books. All 22 of them!

You want a list? Here ya go:

Love and Leftovers by Sarah Tregay
Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic
May B. by Caroline Starr Rose
The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges
Lethally Blonde by Patrice Lyle
Chained by Lynne Kelly
The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats
Gilt by Katherine Longshore
The Mapmaker and the Ghost by Oh, Hai! (I'm kidding. It's by me)
One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear
Auracle by Gina Rosati
Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things by Kathryn Burak
Scarlet by AC Gaughen
Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
If I Lie by Corrine Jackson
Velveteen by Daniel Marks
Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini
Touched by Corrine Jackson
A Breath of Eyre by Eve Marie Mont
Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy
The Unfailing Light by Robin Bridges

To enter, simply check out the Rafflecopter form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The YAmazing Race with MGnificent Prizes!




Update: The YAmazing Race is now over. Thanks so much to everyone who played! Prizes for the big race and for my own blog contest will be announced in the next day. 

Welcome once again to the YAmazing Race with MGnificent prizes (or, if this is your first race, just a regular ol' welcome): a blog hop with 50+ debut authors involving a ton of prizes like books, swag, and more.

How does it work, you might ask? Well, first, make sure you've gone here to the Apocalypsies blog for the complete rules. From there, you're going to be led to a series of our blogs where you'll learn a little bit about each of our books. File away the book info in your head because you will then use it to take a short quiz. There will be four quizzes in all. You can do one, you can do them all. Naturally, I recommend being thorough (because you will have a much better chance of winning awesome prizes and 100% chance of learning about awesome books.)

Got that?

So, without further ado, here's a little bit about my book:


The Mapmaker and the Ghost by Sarvenaz Tash


Goldenrod Moram loves nothing better than a good quest. Intrepid, curious, and full of a well-honed sense of adventure, she decides to start her own exploring team fashioned after her idols, the explorers Lewis and Clark, and to map the forest right behind her home. This task is complicated, however, by a series of unique events—a chance encounter with a mysterious old lady has her searching for a legendary blue rose. Another encounter lands her in the middle of a ragtag gang of brilliant troublemakers. And when she stumbles upon none other than the ghost of Meriwether Lewis himself, Goldenrod knows this will be anything but an ordinary summer . . . or an ordinary quest.


Got it? Ready to find out about the next awesome Apocalypsie book? Click here to go to Jenny Torres Sanchez's blog.

Also...since it's Halloween and I wrote a ghost story AND my birthday is this week, I'm giving away a signed hardcover of The Mapmaker and the Ghost and some swag right here on this blog! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below -- you'll see there are extra ways to get entries by leaving a comment (about your Halloween costume this year), following me on Twitter, liking me on Facebook, following my blog or adding my book to your Goodreads shelf. My contest will be open until Tuesday, October 30th at 11:59 PM EST.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 12, 2012

Geek-Off #3: Vote for the Winner!

Update: And the winner of the third Geek-Off is...Billy! For incorporating Spider-Man, Sandman and Star Wars into one wedding, there is one Geek mug coming your way.

It's New York Comic Con week here in ye ole NYC. I am SADLY unable to attend this time around. But to make me feel a little bit better, let's honor that glorious celebration of nerddom by voting for a winner of the Geek-Off!

Without further ado, the entries are:

1. The person who incorporates Transformers into his breakfast specials, wakes up to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures, creates Power Ranger memes, and pretends his pizza was delivered by everyone's favorite Italian plumber.

,


2. The person whose wedding included Lego Princess Leia and Han Solo cake toppers, had a reading from Neil Gaiman's The Sandman and had a ceremony incorporating this line from Spider-Man: "With great power, comes great responsibility."

3. The person who made all of these pie toppers for her wedding:


4. The person who named his son Logan after Wolverine. When his son found out that Logan's birth name was James Howlett, he asked to be referred to as James and still believes it should be changed legally.

5. The person who has the following 3 items in the top drawer of his desk, within easy reach to be used at any time:
 (from left to right in the photo)
1) OBD-II diagnostic scanner, to tell what's causing the Check Engine light in a car, or perform emissions inspections in his garage
2) digital calipers, precise down to smaller than a millimeter
3) a wristwatch spanner, for removing the backs of watches when you need to replace the battery inside

6. An unlinkable video of two people singing along to Train. Unlinkable for fear of dramatic repercussions.

7. The person attending the Otakon manga and anime convention with her daughter.

Vote now for your favorite(s)! You can vote for more than one. Voting will remain open until Monday, October 15th at 5 PM EST.

Who should win this Geek-Off?

Monday, October 8, 2012

It's Time for Another Geek-Off!

Friends, Romans, countrymen. Lend me your [Spock] ears.

It's time for another round of my favorite contest: The Geek-Off!

How does it work? Simple. Just comment on this post (or tweet at me) with your submission for what makes you worthy of being called the winner of the Geek-Off. It could be an object, an experience, an alien abduction...whatever you think will get you the highly coveted title.

As an example, previous winners include:

The owner of this Bat Symbol-engraved wedding band.




The creator of these "Potter Bucks."







Get your submissions in by this Thursday at 5 PM EST. And then all submissions will be put to a vote. (Democracy is soooo geeky.)

The winner will receive this stunning Geek mug designed by yours truly.

 
And bragging rights of course.

As a tip: posting links to pictures is recommended. We geeks are highly visual people.

Let's do this, geeks!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Bouncing Back

Well, hello there. I know what you're probably thinking:

Who is this and why have I landed on this page?

It's true that for the past couple of months I've been a terrible blogger. So once upon a time you may have followed my blog and then forgotten all about me. And now you're probably all like...Sarve-what?

I was going through some stuff and I was taking a break from writing. I was actually taking a break from authorship too, hence the blog hiatus.

I'm still on a break from writing but the good thing is that I'm no longer feeling guilty about it. Instead of writing I've been:

- going to the gym
- planning my wedding
- reading
- watching some questionable TV
- watching some awesome TV
- attending a whole bunch of friends' weddings

So, you know, living life. Which I think I forgot somewhere along the way is something you actually need to do in order to write about it.

Before my break, I was in the middle of a WIP and I honestly don't know when I'm going to get back to it. But I do know that this morning, for the first time in probably about two months, I woke up thinking about those characters and story again. And that is a very good thing.

So I am going to try to get back to blogging more. And hopefully someday soon I'll be writing again too. But for now, I just wanted to say hi! And hope you're well.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In Loving Memory

Of my grandfather.


You are loved and missed. Until we meet again, Bababozorg.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Waiting on April

It's almost two years to the day that I got an offer on my debut novel. Not long after I found out about that offer, I found out the release date: April 2012.

Somehow I had to find a way to make it from September 2010 to April 2012. Honestly, even though logic dictated otherwise, there were many times when it seemed like that month was never. going. to. happen.

Alas, logic did somehow win out over my irrational impatience and April 2012 did, in fact, finally get here.

I got engaged in December 2011 and a short while later had picked out my wedding date: April 2013. It wasn't my first choice for the date but a lot of factors led into it being the choice that made the most sense.

Except for the fact that I am now convinced that April 2013 will never, ever get here either.

As you may know, I love throwing theme parties and I have a lot of things I'm excited about for throwing my wedding themed party. When I'm not totally despairing over how far away the date is, that is.

But, hey, you know what's a great business to get into when you're notoriously impatient? Publishing!

(Oh and if anyone has any tips for making time fly, I will gladly take them.)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Where the Heck Have I Been?

The short answer to that is probably at a wedding.

I did attend three of them within two weeks this month (and I actually have 11 to go to this year, no joke). Two of them required weekend-long travel; one of them I was in; and, for the record, all of them were a good time.

The existential answer to that title question definitely involves some soul-searching, some metaphorical long walks on the beach, and an attempt to figure out not only where I've been, but where the heck I'm going.

This is especially true of writing. Something which this blog is a small part of. The long gap between my previous post and this one is indicative of how writing has been going.

I am working on a first draft of something veeeeeery slowly. Too slowly for my liking to tell you the truth. I'm very afraid of losing the spark, the blind excitement that keeps me going through the awfulness that is a first draft. But I've also had such a busy month, that it's been a good excuse to not write.

And then, of course, I can always find more excuses not to write. Depending on my mood, pretty, shiny things that are much more fun to stare at than a blinking cursor. Or some days a fatalistic attitude that is sure of rejection anyway so what is the point. Or some days, pure and simple laziness. And sometimes, the very lethal combination of all three.

But ANYWAY, I'm going to try to go back to finishing the first draft of this manuscript. My personal deadline is by the end of this year and I know I will be very disappointed in myself if I don't meet that. Putting that on this blog also holds me somewhat accountable to Taskmaster Me, who, by the way, is rather scary.

But, boy, when you get rusty in the butt-in-chair method...man, is it hard to get back to it. I need a writing equivalent of a Richard Simmons yelling in my ear. But, you know, with good ideas I can use and perfect sentence structure that never needs to be edited.

Mystical creature, if you are out there, call me maybe.

Monday, July 30, 2012

TV I Love: The Olympics

I am not a sports person. I'm uncoordinated and slow, so I don't enjoy playing them. And I really have about zero interest in ever watching them.

With one very big exception: the Olympics. Like most of the world, I loooooove the Olympics and will spend every two years glued to my television for two weeks going: Archery? Hit that target! Curling? Look at those brooms go! Swimming? Yes, let's have more poolside interviews with lovely, shirtless men, thank you.

In all seriousness though, I know exactly why I love the Olympics so much whereas I shun all other televised athletics as pointless and boring. It's the stories. Those little edited packages that tell me why exactly I should be rooting for certain athletes (their affinity for one-legged dogs, the fact that they are an over-the-hill 22 years old and this is their last shot for an Olympic medal, their tragic brush with alopecia)...and the instant gratification of finding out whether they win or not. The soft lighting and slow-motion close-ups, the epic music featuring that lone horn, the parental interviews with the crying...my god, I love it all.

So what I'm saying is: manipulate me, NBC, with your carefully constructed narratives. I look forward to it every time.

Friday, July 27, 2012

WIP Quiz Winners!

Thanks to everyone who played along this week on: What the heck is Sarv's work-in-progress about?

Without further ado, here are the correct answers:

If you guessed that the book is about genies, is based on The Arabian Nights (along with other Persian and Middle Eastern folklore) and has the word kingdom in the tentative title, you would have gotten all three answers correct.

Which nobody did. But five people did get two out of three and they are: Liliana, Aeicha, Bill, Lori and Christina. Via random.org, the person selected as the winner from those with the most correct answers is...

Liliana!

Congratulations! You shall be getting your gift card via email!

And as for the WIP, I wish I could give you more details, but for now, that's where we stand. Keep your fingers crossed that I'll be able to share more tidbits soon!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

WIP Quiz: The Final Question

And here it is: the very last question in your quest to find out what my work-in-progress manuscript is about!

To recap, you're playing to win a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card.

The quick and dirty rules: I'm going to ask you three questions about what my WIP is about. Make your best guesses! You have until this Friday at 8 AM EST to answer any or all of them. Whoever gets the most correct will be put in the raffle to win the prize. (In case only one person gets the most correct, that person will automatically be the winner.) Every entrant can answer each question only once (in the event that they answer more than once, only their first answer will be counted).

If you missed question 1 or question 2, there is still time to answer them. Go here for question 1 and here for question 2.

On Friday, I will reveal the correct answers and the winner. The only hint you have right now is that it's middle grade and a standalone (as in, it's not a sequel to Mapmaker).

So ready for the final question? Here goes:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

WIP Quiz, Part 2

Here is the second part of my three-part quiz, informally called: What the heck is Sarv's WIP about?

Up for grabs is one $25 gift card to either Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

The quick and dirty rules: I'm going to ask you three questions about what my WIP is about, one every day starting yesterday and ending tomorrow. Make your best guesses! Whoever gets the most correct will be put in the raffle to win the prize. (In case only one person gets the most correct, that person will automatically be the winner.) Every entrant can answer each question only once (in the event that they answer more than once, only their first answer will be counted).

If you missed question 1, there is still time to answer it. Go here. Question 3 has now been posted here.

On Friday, I will reveal the answers and the winner. The only hint you have right now is that it's middle grade and a standalone (as in, it's not a sequel to Mapmaker).

So ready for question 2? Here goes:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Guess What My WIP Is About...and Win a $25 Gift Card!

For the past year and a half I've been working on a new book that's been taking up a lot of space iny my head (and my heart -- because that's how writing books work).

Do you wanna know what it's about?

Well...

...I think I'm gonna make you work a little for it (and reward you with a prize)!

On Friday, I'm going to revealsome details about my WIP. But for now, I've decided to make things interesting by running a little giveaway.

The prize is a $25 Barnes and Noble or Amazon gift card (your choice).

The challenge? I'm going to ask you three questions about what my work-in-progress is about. Make your best guesses! Whoever gets the most correct will be put in the raffle to win the prize. (In case only one person gets the most correct, that person will automatically be the winner.)

Here is what I will tell you about the book: it's middle grade and a standalone (i.e. it's not a sequel to The Mapmaker and the Ghost). 

I'll run one question a day from now through Thursday. Use the Google form below to answer them. The more questions you answer, the better your chances of being in the raffle! (And you can answer any of them up until Friday at 8 AM EST).

The first question can be found below; the second question can be found here and the final question here. Good luck!

*P.S. There is a very tiny handful of people who have read this WIP and/or know what it's about. You know who you are...and I know who you are. To keep things fair, they are disqualified from this contest. :-)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Yes and No

The legend* goes like this: John Lennon met Yoko Ono at a gallery that was exhibiting her artwork. One of her pieces was a canvas that was mounted on the ceiling. One tiny word was written on it. To read the word, one had to climb the ladder and then use an attached magnifying glass. John did. The word was 'yes.'

Later on, John said that if the word had been "no," or something negative like he had expected, he would have thought nothing of it. But something about the blatant positivity struck a chord with him. He had to meet the artist responsible.

Sometimes I feel like being in the publishing world is like climbing a million ladders only to find the word "no," written at the top of each one. Sometimes it's a little more elaborate: "Maybe but…probably not." "Interesting idea but…it'll never sell." "What in the name of god's good green earth is that drivel?!" [That last one might be more of an inner monologue thing.]

It can get frustrating at best. Downright heartbreaking at worst.

But then, the beauty of it too is that there is always one more ladder to climb. One more idea to try. One more agent to query. One more revision to make.

And sometimes, just when you least expect it, you trudge up those steps and find that one word: "yes."

And you know what? Not only is it all the sweeter because of all the nos that came before it, but you learn to appreciate the littlest yeses too. Yes, that agent wants a partial! Or yes, my book is in my local bookstore! Or yes, a 9-year-old just wrote me a fan email!

Just for today, I'm going to put aside all the nos and take a long look at all the yeses in my life. Would you consider doing the same? And if so, how about you share your yeses with me in the comments section!

*There is debate about to whether that's really how they met but it's a story that always stuck a chord with me anyway, whether it's completely true or not.

Monday, July 16, 2012

It's Gonna Be a Far Out Party, Man!

One of the biggest things going on in my life right now (besides launching my debut book and writing others) is planning my 2013 wedding.

As you may or may not know, I love throwing parties. Specifically theme parties (by way of example: my Tridecade Tournament, my 90s Prom, or my murder mystery birthday). And I consider the wedding the biggest theme party of all!

I've been using wedding planning as a stress relief for when book stuff is getting to me. This may sound odd, especially when I know that wedding planning is what actually stresses most people out, but the thing is: I can control most aspects of wedding planning (whereas I can control very few aspects of marketing a book). AND after writing a whole three-task Tridecade Tournament and figuring out how to turn my living room into the Great Hall (complete with floating candles)...this is kinda on the easy side.

The fiance and I have some tricks up our sleeves for our wedding guests, but one of the things we just recently sent out was our save-the-dates. And I've been so proud of them that I thought I'd share them here (oh, okay, I'm also running out of things to blog about, people! There's only so much excitement in a lowly author's life).

I actually had the idea for the save-the-dates a looooong time ago. Graig and I both love the 60s and the design idea just came to me during a car ride one day: psychedelic 60s concert posters.

Graig, being a huge Deadhead, was not hard to convince on this matter.

We flipped through some books and took our inspiration from these two specific posters:


(So the Grateful Dead was actually involved. Graig was happy).

Using a combination of hand-lettering (all Graig) and some Photoshop/design skillz (a joint effort) our final result was a two-sided postcard that had this on one side:



And this on the other:


And then, of course, we needed some funky, trippy envelope to house the whole thing.

Behold!


Translucent and turquoise with the stamp as a pop of color.

In case you can't tell, we really love our save-the-dates and how they turned out. AND I found our fantastic printers (nextdayflyers.com) solely from author word-of-mouth. They do beautiful bookmarks too! (And you know how we authors love our swag).

Now...on to the invitations...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Let's Play the WIP Game!

Some members of the Apocalypsies introduced me to this fun writers game last year (in between talking to ourselves and having nervous breakdowns over imaginary beings, we writers do occasionally like to play a game or two). It's called the WIP (work-in-progress) game.

Basically someone picks a number at random and then also says top, middle or bottom.

For example, I'll say...page 42, top.

Now everyone go to the manuscript you're working on at the moment, and write down a line that can be found on the top of page 42. (If you haven't gotten to page 42 in your WIP yet, then go to the last page you do have.)

Here is my line:  

But any of that stuff, in my world, translates to fighting monsters and scaling cliffs and, you know, doing some really sweet swordfighting moves. 

Your turn! Leave me your sentence in the comments section! 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

One-Pubbed Wonder: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Journey

So here's the deal: I have completed a manuscript for a second book. I have no idea if it will ever be published. This is something I've been dealing with for about a year now and I figure the time is ripe to share some feelings. It's gonna be that sort of blog post.

But before you run away, you should know it won't all be touchy-feely. It will, however, be honest.

See, sometime after I got my book deal for Mapmaker, but before my book actually came out (a looooong, extended period of almost two years, if you recall), I had a great fear. My fear was this: that book one would turn out to be a fluke, that I would never get published again and be henceforth known as a one-pubbed wonder.

I wouldn't say it was my absolute greatest fear (tidal waves still win that one)...but it was up there. I wrote afraid, I revised afraid, I submitted afraid.

I was scurred, people.

Then Mapmaker came out. And it was awesome and surreal. On the other hand, it was also very real. It was no longer a dream or fantasy to have a book published, it was my reality. And along with the awesomeness of that came, well, the realities of it. The ups and downs of real life and a real business that I was now a part of. I did say business. Because as wonderful as book publishing is, it is also that. Being an author is my job. And, as a job, as any job, it has its good and bad days.

And now the [good] day has come that I've let go of the fear. I can see it happening, me maybe never getting published again. And you know what? It's not so bad. I'll still always be a published author. I'll still always have that checked off my bucket list. No one can take away the friends I've made through this journey, or the experience I've had. Someone somewhere whom I don't know can still read a story that I wrote...and love it.

And if I never get to experience that again? It's okay. Because I got to experience it once.

One thing I do know: I'll never stop writing, at least not as far as I can see. I'll tell my stories like I've always done. Jot them down and work on them until they're good, and then again, until they're better. If it means it's something I'll only do for myself, possibly for some loyal friends to read, I'm okay with that.

I really am. Because, really, that is exactly where I was before I ever got a book offer. And I was happy there.

The good news is that it's time to write unafraid again, revise unafraid, submit unafraid. Maybe, eventually, another book deal will come through. Maybe it won't. But I feel like letting go, for me, is one of those life lessons I have to keep relearning over and over again. My own existential Groundhog Day, if you will.

It's a good one...one I hope will be a little easier gained next time I catch myself hyperventilating over something or another. Though I'm okay with being irrationally terrified of tidal waves. Because they are SO SCARY.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Craft Talk: Closing the Door

In Stephen King's fantastic craft book/autobiography On Writing (quite possibly my favorite craft book of all time), the author talks a lot about his writing method. Of course, with anyone who can churn out quality bestsellers like he does, it's fascinating.

But there's one particular phenomenon he talks about that particularly resonated with me. He calls it "closing the door." The basic tenet of it is this: when you're banging out the first draft of a novel, you need to shut the door to other readers. Don't talk about it; don't ask for critiques. Let all your worries, hopes and ambitions for the story find it's way out on the paper.

His theory is that if you open the door and let others in at that very fragile early state, you'll dilute the excitement and drive that you need to finish that draft. And you also won't know your story well enough to be able to put other people's comments into perspective. You're too easily influenced and, ultimately, that probably wouldn't be best for the work.

Now, of course, every writer has their own methods and habits and this one of "closing the door" may not work for everyone. But the reason it really resonated with me is that in my much, much more humble, limited experience, I've also found it to be true.

Writing first drafts are already rather tough for me. There is much I don't enjoy about it. But what gets me through it -- and therefore able to produce a possibly viable manuscript at all -- is the excitement I personally feel over whatever story I'm trying to tell. And if I share that with too many other people, that can leak out. Believe me, my metaphorical balloon needs all the air it can get!

I'm also in some uncharted territories here in another respect. Before I had a book deal, I didn't share my writing with very many people, and I didn't talk much about what I was working on either. Getting published was a huge dream, but it was also just that: a dream. I didn't spend a lot of my time thinking about how scary it can be to have your work out there. (I had other things to do with my time: like writing!)

But I've worked on a few WIPs since the book deal, and, in the back of my head, there is now that slightly bigger possibility that these will also get published, and read, and thought about. Mostly, that's wonderful. But it also leaves me with the reality that there is only a very limited time that the story I'm working on gets to be all mine. At some point, agents and editors get involved; a marketing department gets involved; and, most importantly, readers get involved. Any writer will tell you that once you give your work to a reader, well, it gets to be theirs too. That's the beautiful thing about it, after all.

So I'm learning to cherish closing the door and spending precious alone time with my works-in-progress. Sometimes, that's more difficult than it sounds because I have moments when that initial excitement gets the better of me and I want to shout about my story from the rooftops, share pages with people, and just generally get uber-chatty about it. These are urges I must resist. For one thing, there's no way those first draft pages are anywhere near as good as I think they are in my brief moments of euphoria/insanity (and therefore they should only be shared with a limited number of very trusted people).

Most importantly, I truly believe in King's advice: I need to save that excitement/desire for the page. I need to not only figure out where my story wants to go, but how it's going to learn to walk (or run or fly or travel by fairy ship) at all in order to get there. And, from what I know, that comes from one-on-one time and nothing else.

With that said, I have something I'm working on right now that I'm currently very excited about...hopefully, one day you can come in and I can tell you all about it.

But for now...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It's Kind of a Funny Story...

This February, the fiance and I were taking a road trip to Vermont to look at a possible wedding venue. It was an unseasonably gorgeous weekend for it.

On the drive up, I got a call from an unknown number. The person on the other end was slurring and very hard to understand, but I got the gist that he had the wrong number. I told him so and hung up. Twenty seconds later he called again. Again, I told him he had the wrong number, again we hung up, again he called...

Now, if you know me at all, you'll know I'm really not a phone person. And sometimes this leads to my New York 'tude coming out. By the last phone call, my voice was raised as I told him that it was the wrong number and to STOP CALLING.

About thirty minutes later, I got a phone call from another unrecognized number. It was a different person on the other end, but he still was hard to understand and it was still a wrong number.

Twenty minutes after that we had reached the venue (a country inn) and the moment we stepped foot into our room...I get another phone call from yet another number.

This time it was a woman calling and she at least was enunciating. So I managed to ask her whom she was trying to reach. "The bail bond office," she told me.

It was around this point I realized that the people calling me before, who, um, I had yelled at, were calling me from jail. 

It was also around this point that the innkeeper came around to give us the "wedding tour."

So in between talking about wine selections, butlered hor d'oeuvres and dance floors, this was the thought that was running through my head. "Is my phone number scrawled on the wall of a jail cell somewhere?!"

Which, for the record, is much more frightening than I expected, being a devoted fan of that awesome Tommy Tutone song and all.



At some point between looking over the lake that would be the ceremony site and the barn that would be the reception area, I got about three more phone calls. It was very hard to concentrate on whether there'd be a DJ or a band.

When we got back to the inn, I called AT&T to see if they could block the calls. They said no; the only thing I could do is change my number.

You guys, I have a 917 number. If you live in NYC, you know what I'm talking about. (Or if you've seen Sex and the City...917 is totally the new 212). Also, it's the only cell number I've ever had. I did not want to change it.

Before dinner, I spent some time fretting over this new development. After dinner (and while we were supposed to be paying attention to the quality of the food), I suddenly had an epiphany.

The one woman who had called me from outside of jail (and in a clear voice) had given me the name of the bail bond company. I looked them up. They had an office in Nassau County on Long Island (where all of my calls had been coming from)...and they also had a main number. I had a suspicion that someone had accidentally punched in the wrong number (mine) when forwarding calls from the Nassau office.

So I called the main office.

The conversation went something like this.

Bail Bond Dude: Bail Bond.
Me: Hi. I'm calling for rather an odd reason. I think that someone from your Nassau office has accidentally forwarded all of your office phone calls to my phone. The result being that you're losing business and I'm getting about 50 phone calls from jail.
BBD: Oh s***...please hold.

Thankfully, BBD was on top of his game. He got back on the phone with me about a minute later and said someone was going to the office immediately to fix the situation.

I received no more phone calls from jail.

For what it's worth, we also decided against that venue.

The End.

Monday, June 25, 2012

MG Author Spotlight & Giveaway: Interview with Joanne Levy

I'm pleased as punch to bring you today's interview with author Joanne Levy who penned the hilarious just-about-to-be-released Small Medium at Large.

First of all, I'll wait while you marvel at that astounding title.

Secondly, you should know the book itself is as funny, charming and wonderful as the title suggests.

Thirdly, Joanne and I have a lot in common. We're both in the Class of 2K12. We're both Bloomsbury MG authors. And we both have sassy ghosts* in our debuts! Currently, we are hard at work trying to make #sassyghosts a trending topic on Twitter.

*Term coined by the fabulous Christina of A Reader of Fictions.

The only other thing I'm going to say is that Joanne has one scene in her book involving a seance and a dead clown that had me rolling on the floor laughing.

Here is a little bit more about the book:

After she’s hit by lightning at a wedding, twelve-year-old Lilah Bloom develops a new talent: she can hear dead people. Among them, there’s her overopinionated Bubby Dora; a prissy fashion designer; and an approval-seeking clown who livens up a séance. With Bubby Dora leading the way, these and other sweetly imperfect ghosts haunt Lilah through seventh grade, and help her face her one big fear: talking to—and possibly going to the seventh-grade dance with—her crush, Andrew Finkel.

And without further ado, here is my interview with Joanne. And since I know that synopsis (and that dead clown tease) piqued your interest, one lucky blog reader will walk away with their own, shiny copy of Small Medium at Large! Just scroll down after the interview for the giveaway.

To borrow (and modify) a question from James Lipton, what’s your favorite middle-grade appropriate “curse word” or insult?
Joanne Levy: Hmm. Since I was raised among wolves (read: older brothers) I’m used to the real thing, so my MG appropriate swears aren’t all that original. Probably Oh Crap! would be the one I use most.

What's the first book that you remember LOVING as a child?
JL: Someone asked me the other day about picture books I loved and Ferdinand popped into my head. I went to look at a preview of it online and it took me back to where I was seriously tearing up over the pictures, because I remember them so vividly. I must have read that book so many times as a kid and I’m sure it was dog-eared and torn. I’m not sure what it was about that book that resonated with me, but looking back, I love that Ferdinand wouldn’t be swayed and did what he enjoyed, even if it wasn’t what other people wanted from him. And, you know, in this day and age, sitting among the flowers and just being sounds pretty okay to me.

If you were a medium, which three ghosts would you most want to hear from? 
JL: The real bubby Dora, my great grandmother, who, even though she was over 100 when she died, left this planet way too soon. She was a remarkable and VERY funny woman and I wish I’d been a bit older when she was around so I could have appreciated her more. Jim Henson, just to tell him how awesome I think he is/was, and whoever it was who invented Mac & Cheese, because I’d like to shake his or her hand on a job well done.

Small Medium at Large? Probably one of the BEST titles I've ever heard. What are some other books that really grabbed you solely because of their titles. 
JL: Oh, good question. I picked up Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (Christopher Moore) based on the title. Also, although I’ve never read it, I’ve always loved the title A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by David Eggers.

What are two MG books you'd recommend and why? 
JL: Besides yours? I’d have to say a couple of recent reads: How They Croaked by Georgia Bragg (illustrated by Kevin O’Malley) because it’s morbid and interesting and VERY entertaining. And The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate about a gorilla and his friends who are living their lives stuck in a roadside zoo. The voice of the gorilla is so amazing – funny but a bit gruff yet at the same time gentle—exactly what you’d expect from a gorilla. Based on true events, it’s a great read that I think kids and grownups will enjoy.

Thank you, Joanne!
Thanks for having me!

GIVEAWAY:
And now for the giveaway! Simply fill out the Rafflecopter form below to be entered to win one hardcover copy of Small Medium at Large. You get 1 free entry and +1 entry for commenting on this blog post, following me on Twitter, or following Joanne on Twitter. You get +2 entries for tweeting or Facebooking about this giveaway and +3 entries for blogging about it. The giveaway will be open until Friday, June 29th at 11:59 PM EST and is open internationally!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Free MAPMAKER Bookplates!

Update: This batch of bookplates and bookmarks have all been spoken for. If you filled out the form, you should be getting them in the mail shortly!

I'm mailing out signed The Mapmaker and the Ghost bookplates (and bookmarks) to the first 20 people who fill out the Google form below!

They appear like so:



Ready to stick into your own copy of The Mapmaker and the Ghost...or anywhere you fancy, really. I have one peeking out of the suit pocket of my life-sized poster of David Tennant. (Okay, not really...but as soon as I make the leap and purchase said poster, you know it's going to happen.)

Just fill out the below with your name and address. U.S. only please.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Publishing Timeline

One question I've been asked a lot recently is the most surprising part of getting a book deal. I have a few answers to this, but the most obvious one is how long everything takes. Before I went on this journey, I honestly had no clue what the timing of things would be (and here is where I thank the Apocalypsies for answering my panicked "Should this be taking this long?"s with a resounding yes).

So, in case it's of some interest, I started jotting down when major milestones happened in the genesis of The Mapmaker and the Ghost. Obviously, things vary from publishing house to publishing house. But, from what I can gather, my timing experience from offer to book was pretty standard.

Does any of it surprise you?

June 2009: I sign on with my agent. She starts sending out my manuscript to editors (a different manuscript than The Mapmaker and the Ghost).

July 2009-September 2009: Manuscript #1 gets rejected, though some editors have some very nice/constructive feedback.

September 2009: My agent and I decide to sends out Manuscript #2 (though really it was written before Manuscript #1) to two editors who seemed most interested in MS #1. One editor passes.

December 2009: Editor #2 likes the manuscript but says she wouldn't be able to buy it as is. She will send an edit letter to me in a couple of months to see if I can fix it up.

February 2010: Receive spec edit letter from Editor #2.

May 2010: Hand in revised manuscript to agent, who in turn submits it to Editor #2. My agent gives the editor an exclusive deadline until July.

July 2010: Receive word that though Editor #2 really liked my changes, she is still unable to get full approval from the acquisitions board. She cannot meet the exclusive deadline but will still try. My agent submits the manuscript to a few other houses.

August 2010: Get the call that editor #2 has made an offer!!

September 2010: Offer is accepted (verbally only), editor #2 officially becomes MY editor and I receive my first real edit letter!

November 2010: I hand in my first round of revisions.

December 2010: I receive my second edit letter.

January 2011: I hand in my second round of revisions. I also see the first sketches of my cover art.

February 2011: I receive the copyedited version of the manuscript with a one week turnaround to hand them back in. We settle on a finalized title. I also join the Apocalypsies, a group of 2012 debut children's authors.

March 2011: I receive my contract.

April 2011: I receive my advance check. My deal finally appears in Publisher's Marketplace. Also, I see the first layout of the interior of the book (including title page, chapter heading designs, etc.)

May 2011: I receive first pass pages (the entire book laid out) for proofreading.

June 2011: Cover reveal.

July 2011: My book appears on Amazon and is available for pre-order. I get an official release date and see my jacket copy. I receive my ARCs.

September 2011: I turn in my final proofread.

December 2012: I find out my cover is changing! Also I receive a copy of my first print review which will run in the March issue of Library Media Connection.

February 2012: I reveal my new cover.

March-April 2012: A haze of online marketing blitz. I only partially remember these months.

April 24, 2012: The Mapmaker and the Ghost is released and available for sale almost everywhere!

May 2012: I receive a review from School Library Journal.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

5 Events in 5 Days: A Recap

I live in New York, but I've never attended BEA before nor have I participated in any sort of ancillary activity even. Last week was something we call "diving into the deep end." From Sunday to Thursday, I had 5 events in 5 days! This means I skipped the gym and ate pretty poorly, but, let's face it -- it was all worth it.

Here is a little recap of what might be my craziest book-related week yet.

Sunday: Book Revue
Book Revue is one of the country's largest independent bookstores. It also happens to be in my hometown of Huntington, NY so I grew up with it.

My favorite part: seeing friends and teachers from high school I hadn't seen in a while and getting to visit a childhood haunt "on the other side of the podium."


This photo also definitely made me realize that I make a lot of exaggerated faces when I read aloud. I blame all those years of being in the ensemble of the school plays.

Monday: Bank Street Books
Bank Street Books is a fantastic and oh-so-generous children's bookstore where I met up with my Class of 2K12ers A.C. Gaughen, Kimberly Sabatini, Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Sarah Tregay (whom I finally met in person for the first time!) and we had a lively crowd asking us all sorts of questions about breaking into the kidlit business.


My favorite question: What was the most important thing you learned from being a debut author?

My answer: Something that I had to learn before I got a book deal and then had to re-learn after: taking joy in the craft of writing. Write because you love it, because there are characters who are speaking to you, and a story you need to tell. There are many challenges on both sides of this path and if you can't love what you're doing for its own sake--it's hard for me to fathom how it might be worth it otherwise.

Tuesday: BEA!
I finally stepped foot into the giant expo. And within 5 minutes, I had found the Bloomsbury booth where I got to see this lovely display.


But even though attending BEA for the first time and actually seeing my book in prominent display there was a definite highlight of the week, it actually wasn't my very favorite part of Tuesday.

My very favorite part: the massive Apocalypsies event organized by my fellow debut author Lenore Appelhans. Lenore had come up with this brilliant idea to create these gorgeous, four-page "dance cards" which the attendees of the event would attempt to get signed by all of us. The catch...we were stationed all around the room and it required a bit of exploring to get to us all (Goldenrod would have been very pleased).

A total collector's item! I'm saving all my autographs.
I got to meet so many amazing book bloggers and librarians because of this. It was a blast and a privilege.

AND...I got to meet about 20 Apocalypsies that I've spent the better part of last year chatting to in person!

Here we are:

A lot of these wonderful ladies are responsible for keeping me sane over the past year.

Wednesday: Tenth Rail
Wednesday was a much-needed hangout day with my Class of 2K12ers Megan Bostic, A.C. Gaughen, Kimberly Sabatini, Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Sarah Tregay.


We also got to give away some awesome raffles.

Thursday: Books of Wonder
Five events in five days ended at my favorite bookstore, the inimitable Books of Wonder, where I got to be a part of a debut authors panel with my fellow Class of 2K12ers Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Megan Bostic, A.C. Gaughen and Sarah Tregay along with debut authors Rebecca Serle, Huntley Fitzpatrick, Meredith Zeitlin and Mary Thompson.


Since I won't be doing any in-person events for awhile, if you've missed me and would like a signed copy of The Mapmaker and the Ghost, please consider buying one directly from Books of Wonder right here!

Have I mentioned that I love them?

Friday: Vacation!
I spent four glorious days at a beach house where I did little else besides reading, eating and hanging out with friends.


The perfect endcap to a perfect week!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

June Event Extravaganza!

Next week is Book Expo America (BEA) week in New York City which means that much of publishing descends upon the Big Apple for a weeklong discussion and celebration of books, books and more books.

Since I live in New York, and since this is my first BEA as a published author, next week will be a bit of an event extravaganza for me. 5 events in 5 days to be exact. And guess what? You're invited to all of them! So if you're around, feel free to pick and choose what looks most appealing to you. There'll be mingling, munching and raffles as well as the standard panels and signing.

Sunday, June 3, 2012
What: Reading & Signing
Where: Book Revue
313 New York Avenue, Huntington, NY
Time: 4 PM
RSVP: Your invitation is here!
Info: Huntington is my hometown and this is the bookstore I grew up with: one of the country's largest independent bookstores! So I am extra excited for this "homecoming" event.

Monday, June 4, 2012
What: BEA Kick-Off Party/Breaking into KidLit Panel with the Class of 2K12
Where: Bank Street Bookstore
610 112th St., New York, NY
When: 7 PM
RSVP: Your invitation is here!
Info: Kick off BEA week with the Class of 2K12. We're going to talk a bit about how we broke into the kidlit business before mingling in a fun party atmosphere.

Tuesday, June 5th
What: Meet the Apocalypsies at BEA
Where: Javits Center, Room 1E04
655 W. 34th St., New York, NY 
When: 3-5 PM
Info: Come meet over 20 of this year's debut MG and YA authors. There will be raffles, prizes and cookies! You do need a BEA pass to attend this event.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012
What: Mix, Mingle and Win with the Class of 2K12
Where: Tenth Rail
413 10th Ave., New York, NY 
When: 6 PM
RSVP: Your invitation is here!
Info: Our big BEA party complete with appetizers and awesome raffles where you can win books, swag and critiques!

Thursday, June 7, 2012
What: Panel and Signing with The Class of 2K12
18 W. 18th St., New York, NY 
When: 6-8 PM
RSVP: Your invitation is here!
Info: Come meet some of 2012's debut kidlit authors (including me) and get your books signed!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dreamcasting 'The Mapmaker and the Ghost'

Now that quite a few people have read The Mapmaker and the Ghost, I feel like I can finally share my dreamcast for the (maybe-one-day-there'll-actually-be-a) movie!

Now, this is a little tricky because my characters average at around 11 years old, and there aren't a lot of 11-year-old actors to choose from. With that in mind, I've decided to eschew the laws of time and cast any actor from any era. Why? Because I have a 200-year-old ghost roaming around my book, that's why!

Without further ado:

Goldenrod Moram


Jenny Lewis ca. late 1980s. Spunky and fabulous (and destined to be a rock star).


The Old Lady


Maggie Smith ca. now. Also spunky and fabulous (and just a little bit mysterious).


Meriwether Lewis


David Tennant ca. now. Look! There he is in a maroon overcoat and all! (And NO...this wouldn't be purely so I could stalk him on-set. Not purely.)


Snotshot


Dakota Fanning ca. 3 years ago. A fabulous actress who would bring just the right amount of sass.


Spitbubble


Johnny Depp ca. 30 years ago. Ready to bring on the villainous intensity! (Also not purely so I could hang out on-set with a young Johnny Depp. Nope, not at all. I object to these accusations!)


Brains


Jonathan Ward (a.k.a this kid from the first season of Charles in Charge. For the record, I really liked the Pembrokes.)


Toe Jam


Ben Savage ca. 1st season of Boy Meets World.


Lint


Zachery Ty Bryan ca. 2nd season of Home Improvement. (This might be the point at which it becomes blatantly obvious that I grew up in the 90s.)


No-Bone 


Jared Rushton. Who starred in Big and Overboard and then promptly realized he'd reached the pinnacle of amazing cinema and needed to go no further. Until now...


Birch


NPH ca. 30 years ago. Because I dare you to find me a more adorable/loveable kid.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hey Jealousy

First of all, you're welcome for getting that awesome Gin Blossoms song stuck in your head. I even have a bonus treat for you at the end of this post...

Second of all...I've been thinking about this post for a while and the right way to say what I want to without coming across sounding like an ungrateful jerk.

So...jealousy. Or envy. One of the seven sins, dontcha know. It's also, I think, a very complex, very common emotion and one I want to address from the point-of-view of a writer.

In all honesty, I'm not, by nature, a jealous person. I'm also not a very competitive person. I am ambitious and I do set high standards for myself. My usual mode of operation, though, is trying to best myself more than anything.

But guess what? I get jealous. Sometimes I get jealous of other writers' extensive book tours or their bestseller statuses or the really cool trailer that their pub house made for them. Sometimes I get jealous that goals seem to come easily and quickly for others that have either taken me many, many years to accomplish or that I'm still grappling with. Sometimes I even get jealous of my friends' personal lives.

I hate feeling jealous. Hate it. Because, logically, I know that just because someone has had something good happen to them, doesn't mean something good won't happen to me. There isn't a finite amount of good fortune in the world. Also because I know that just because something seems easy for someone, doesn't mean that's the way it is. I often don't know an individual's personal struggles at all. And, finally, because jealousy is frankly a pointless and poisonous emotion. It's a waste of my time and energy. And it takes a lot of energy.

I KNOW all this. And, yet, it is impossible not to be jealous sometimes. I suspect it is part of the human condition and that I likely am not alone in feeling this way.

In the past year or so, I've found myself having to confront my jealousy more than before. Because, you know what? There are authors who are more successful than me: who get more attention, make more money, write better books. And, frankly, that's the way it should be. There should always be someone better than me, something to strive for.

I also accept that there are people who are jealous of me. I have an agent. I've been published. I have a book that is on bookstore shelves. Truthfully, three years ago, I would have been jealous of me for that alone.

What works for me is taking the time to acknowledge to myself when I'm jealous, reassuring myself that I don't mean ill-will to the person I'm jealous of, and then moving on. Even better yet, making sure to congratulate the person on their good news and making sure they know that I am genuinely happy for them. Because I am. I've learned that being jealous and being happy for someone are not mutually exclusive.

And I find that when I become a cheerleader, I feel just a little bit better about myself. It's a little bit easier to let go of the poison and focus on things that are proactive instead, the things that make me accomplish those goals I set for myself.

What about you? How do you deal with the big green monster? Or am I, in fact, a big jerk for sometimes feeling this way?

Oh, and because I promised...here you go. (I've embedded the version with on-screen lyrics because, let's face it, you know you want to belt this now.)


Thursday, May 10, 2012

SLJ Reviews Mapmaker: 'Page-Turning Adventure'

A few months ago, I received my very first print review from Library Media Connection. (It was a good one).

And now, I just received my very second...from School Library Journal. Without further ado...

Gr 3-6—When her best friend moves away, 11-year-old Goldenrod Moram tries to think of a project that will keep her busy during the long summer before school starts. She loves looking at and making maps and she idolizes Lewis and Clark. She decides to create a map of her town and convinces her mother to let her explore beyond the one-mile radius that has been her unsupervised exploring limit. She beings by setting out to map the forest area at the edge of town. Along the way, she has a series of adventures that include a mysterious old woman who send her on a magical search, a gang of colorful would-be thieves, and most surprisingly, an encounter with the ghost of Meriwether Lewis, who makes his own demands on her time. In this debut novel, Tash has created a memorable cast of characters and a story that combines both humor and suspense. Goldenrod is on a mission, and nothing will deter this determined girl. When the Gross Out Gang captures her curious little brother, just enough danger is created to keep readers in suspense. Children are sure to enjoy this combination of an intrepid heroine, some slightly disreputable characters with humorous and disgusting habits, and a ghost in need of assistance. This page-turning adventure will tickle readers’ funny bones. –Carole Phillips, Greenacres Elementary School, Scarsdale, NY

I love librarians!!

Really, though, I genuinely do. They are truly one of the biggest gatekeepers for us MG authors who are trying to get our books into the hands of kids. I'm beyond thrilled that Mapmaker seems to be resonating with them.

Hooray! Sparkle confetti for all!
 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

How Do I Get Published? The (Very) Basics

I've done a handful of author events over the past few weeks and at every one I've had at least one writer ask me about the steps to take to get published.

So I thought maybe there are some people looking for this sort of information. And, hey, maybe you've somehow stumbled upon my blog while doing it! (In which case, hai, fellow writer).

So here are my 10 very basic short answers to "What do I do to get published?" And, of course, take everything with a grain of salt as there are no real "steps" to anything in life (particularly anything like this). But in my own personal experiences, and after having talked to many other published writers, here are some of the common threads.

1. Have a completed manuscript. It really needs to be the whole book. Not a proposal, not an outline, but a finished story.

2. Polish your manuscript. Take a class. Do an online writing workshop. Find beta readers (in children's books, SCBWI can be a great resource for this). Make sure others have read and commented on your manuscript and that you've at least considered (and in some cases rectified) their issues. You need some eyes with distance because, ultimately, the agent, editor and -- finally -- reader of your book won't be you.

3. Take one more look at the two steps above. You need your manuscript to be in the best shape possible.

4. My opinion: find an agent. It is possible to get published without an agent, but it's much harder. Many less publishing houses accept unsolicited manuscripts. PLUS when you get to the part where you have an offer and you're actually getting published, you will want a good agent who's on your side helping to guide your career and understanding your contracts.

5. And, of course, how do you find your agent? The Internet will be your best friend. Again, for kidlit, I recommend SCBWI -- if you join, you get a very handy cheat sheet of agents, agencies and some of the genres they represent. But any genre you're writing in should have a group like that. Look into it. Look in the acknowledgment sections of your favorite books and find out who those authors' agents are. Compile a list of names of agents who represent your genre and then...

6. Whittle down those names. Find the 6 or 7 agents that you REALLY want to represent you -- the ones that if they offered you representation wouldn't cause you a moment's hesitation. Go to their websites and find out their exact submission policy. FOLLOW IT. I  know this sounds like I'm being completely obvious but you wouldn't believe how many agents get query letters where the directions are not followed at all. They will already like you if you can just do this simple thing. And you want them to like you.

7. Ah, the query letter. That's what most agents will want. Some will want a sampling of the manuscript as well, but almost all will want the "elevator pitch." Keep it short, professional and -- most of all -- interesting. You want this person who reads hundreds of these letters a week to stop and say, "I want to read the story this person is pitching RIGHT NOW." There are tons of resources on the Internet on how to write a great query letter. Again, my manservant Google is your best friend (he can be your manservant too -- I'm big into sharing).

8. Keep track of all the agents you're querying -- the date you queried them, what you sent and, also, their response policy (I used an excel for this). Some may ask you to follow up if you haven't heard after a certain amount of time. Some may have this information on their website. Some may say, "Don't contact me ever! I'll call you." Again, whatever it says -- follow it!

9. Rejections are hard. I'm not going to pretend otherwise. But after you get over the emotional aspect of it, see if you can glean anything useful from the rejection. If it's a form rejection, just tick off a box in your excel and move on. But if it's a personalized rejection with suggestions -- that's actually a GOOD thing. It means a very busy person saw enough potential in you and your work to give you their professional advice. You do not have to take every bit of advice that is thrown out you, but make sure to see if their notes resonate with you. Some agents may even ask you to resubmit if you decide to take them up on their notes. If that's the case, take that very seriously.

10. Did you get rejections from all 6 or 7 of your top agents? Take another look at your manuscript. Really consider doing another round of edits. Then find 6 or 7 other agents who would be a great fit for you. Repeat steps 6-10.

Do you have any other questions? Ask in the comments section and, if I can answer them, I will!