Monday, September 27, 2010

I Have to Draw the Line Somewhere

Okay, so Friday night I took the folding chairs out of the garage. I opened one up to sit on it, and Oh. My. God.

Inside were four tiny newborn mice! (Maybe five... I didn't stick around long enough to get a good count)

I ran off screaming.

My kids stared in complete fascination. They tried to guess how old the mice were. A few days? A few hours? Their eyes were not even open yet.

We discussed what to do with the babies.

I was not about to go anywhere near the little guys, so we waited for David to come home and we agreed that he would fold the chair back up and put it exactly where we had found it.

Yup. Dumb and dumber here. We're supposed to get mice out of our homes, not bring them in.

But I was worried the mom wouldn't be able to find her babies to nurse them.

I may be a plant murderer. But I cannot have a whole family of mammals on my conscience.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Finishing Touches

I bought a plant at Ikea today. Not sure why, since the one plant that I already own is always in a state of near-dead. I guess I just felt the kitchen was missing something. When we bought our house four years ago, we completely renovated it. Everything is brand new... cabinets, appliance, counter-tops, everything! It's gorgeous. But yet, we never put the little finishing touches on it. To give it that warmth. Like a manuscript- when the plot arc is totally in place, but it still needs a little something to make it feel complete.

Gosh is there anything that can't be used as a writing analogy?

Becky and I are are at that point right now in a our new picture book manuscript. We have a draft finished, but we can't agree on how to wrap it up in a way that feels entirely satisfying to the reader. Sometimes it's those little threads that weave through a story and give it that feeling of perfection. A short line that repeats. A minor theme that recurs. We'll get it eventually.

Now, if I can just keep this plant alive.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Beep Beep Beep

My kids love Alvin and the Chipmunks- The Squeakquel. They quote lines from the movie all the time. One of their favorites is... "I don't mean to toot my own horn, but... beep, beep, be-beep, beep!" (Okay, sounds much better in a little squeaky voice)

Anyway, one of my blogger friends went to a conference in Spokane, Washington. She attended a session by agent, Kendra Marcus (who represents yours truly). It turns out that Kendra mentioned THREE NINJA PIGS in her presentation as an example of a very clever picture book!

So... beep, beep, be-beep, beep!

Okay, now that I got that out, your turn? What do you have to toot about this week?

Please share.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

No Such Thing as a New Idea?

Good thing this cartoonist didn't decide to be a picture book writer!

I found this cartoon after writing THE THREE NINJA PIGS! (Putnam, 2012)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bedtime Monster- Road to Publication (Part 2)

Here is the second half of Heather's fascinating journey. And a huge congrats to her on the release of her debut picture book, BEDTIME MONSTER.

Guest Post- Heather Ayris Burnell

Bedtime Monster was illustrated and put into the Spring 2009 catalog. Unfortunately, there was still more waiting to come. Raven Tree Press sent the illustrated book out on an initial test and the results came back negative.

WHAT? Publishing houses run focus groups??? (I've always said they should, but never knew they actually DID!)

Readers found the illustrations too dark and scary. Luckily, they liked the story, and Raven Tree Press believed in it, so they set out to find a new illustrator with an eye towards Spring 2010 publication. I was a bit shocked.

Holy cow! Wouldn't it make sense to do some initial tests earlier? Like... before an entire book is illustrated?

I didn’t know these sorts of things were done, but I was also pretty glad about it. I hadn’t taken a real liking to the initial illustrations myself. I mean, they were good. The monster was monstrous. But it was certainly not a sweet rendition of a bedtime monster as I had imagined. It was more of a big kid scary type of monster, and Bedtime Monster is a story for younger children in the learning to go to bed period of their life. I didn’t want them to be afraid of the monster, I wanted them to relate to him.

So, here we are in October of 2008, and I decided to take the opportunity to speak up about how I saw the illustrations, soft and having a sweet and innocent appearance. They listened. In March ‘09 I found out that Bonnie Adamson was illustrating Bedtime Monster when I received the cover illustration. I was thrilled. The color palate was soft and colorful. The shadow was mysterious. I looked up Bonnie’s website. Her illustrations were adorable. I couldn’t wait to see what Paul looked like.

In January 2010 I interviewed Bonnie for my Illustrator of the Month feature on my blog. She sent some sketches of Paul the boy and Paul the monster. I was delighted because he was adorable! Bonnie told me the illustrations would be completed by the end of February. In the interim, I was sent edits on the manuscript. A few things had been cut so I suggested some additional changes. We also developed activities to go along with the book and those extra sorts of things needed for promotion.

April 9th brought a new surprise. My editor stepped down from her position. I was told I was going to be left in capable hands, but wasn’t specifically told that my book was still going to be published so, as a natural-born worrier, I worried! Luckily it wasn’t too long before I was reassured that Bedtime Monster was still a go.

April 22nd I was emailed my proofs. June 9th I received my galleys to proof. June 14th they were approved and sent to the printer. I received my glorious box full of Bedtime Monster books on September 8th. Bedtime Monster releases on September 16, 2010.

That's today, folks! I'm off to order it right now!!!

Phew. It’s been an interesting ride. Hopefully I’ll get to go on another one soon.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bedtime Monster- Road to Publication

There is nothing more interesting to me than reading about someone's publishing journey! I love getting the inside scoop. How many drafts. How many months? How many queries?

So, I was thrilled to receive a guest post from Heather Ayris Burnell on her Path to Publication.

Heather's story is long, so I will split it into two parts... and her timing is great. This will save me from canceling another week of posts. Hurray!

Here is Heather's story (in black) with an occasional comment from me (in red):

Guest Post-
Heather Ayris Burnell

My road to publication has been a lot like the dirt mountain road I live on, bumpy, with a few rocks to dodge, but ending up in a pretty good place. It all started in 2005 one night after I finally got my reluctant four-year-old son to bed. He’d been going through a time when he just didn’t want to go to bed and, well, he had been acting a bit monstrous. My husband and I tried all sorts of things to get him to bed. We rocked him. We sang to him. We made him warm milk. It was a struggle.

After the house was quiet one of those nights, I lay on the bed and thought about how he was acting. It was like he turned into a little monster at the words, “time for bed”. Then I thought about him turning actually turning into a little monster, tail and all. It made me laugh.

Brilliant! Why didn't I think of that?

I wrote the story down. Entertained myself with it a bit (also known as revising), then stuck it away in my filing cabinet, which is a bad habit I have. I thought of the story from time to time but didn’t look at it again until the next year when my critique partner, Amanda Noll, had a great monster story called I Need My Monster (Flashlight Press, 2009).

Oh! She's your critique partner? Her road to publication can be found here.

It reminded me that I had a monster story too, so I dug through the filing cabinet and put it up for critique. The feedback was pretty positive so I did some revision and sent Bedtime Monster to one publisher. (Obviously, I am not a submission powerhouse.) I got one form rejection. Then I sent a query out and waited. While I was waiting, I heard that Raven Tree Press was open for e-subs and it seemed to me that Bedtime Monster might be a good fit, so I sent the manuscript in for consideration in October of ’06. The same day I was told they were interested and was asked if I would send the story again in February when they were sending manuscripts out to readers. What a whirlwind that was. I wasn’t used to hearing back so quickly on anything let alone positively!

In January ’07 I received a letter about the query I’d sent to the other publishing house. The editor wanted to review Bedtime Monster. I was thrilled. It was my first manuscript request from a query—another milestone moment. I sent the manuscript out to both houses, and waited.

In March ’07 Raven Tree Press emailed me with an offer for a contract. I got a little bit excited! (Bwah-hahaha!) I called the other publisher to let them know. No, I was no good at any of these things. I’d never even been to a writer’s conference at this point in my life, but I called that publishing house and talked to the editor. She ultimately passed, but it was okay. I did have another offer, which I accepted (obviously). Then I waited some more.


Friday, September 10, 2010

A Whole Week of Posts- Canceled!

I have not been able to blog for days. I write... delete. Write... delete.

Maybe it's because this week marks a new year on the Jewish calendar and that makes me overly reflective. (and unfunny)

In any case, this has happened to me before. Luckily, I have already have a handy dandy list of ways to cheer myself up when I am in this situation.
  1. Go see what shenanigans Lisa and Laura are up to.
  2. Read my latest story with a British accent (Always sounds bloody brilliant that way).
  3. Tell my husband, "Honey, I'm late," and watch the sheer panic that comes over him. (This might seem mean, but if you saw the look on his face, you'd laugh too)
If all else fails, I can always watch this video (for the thousandth time):