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!

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!