Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Quacky Baseball- The Story Behind the Story

Peter Abrahams is on deck to share the genesis of his new picture book, QUACKY BASEBALL.   Peter is a New Your Times best-selling author of 25 novels.  QUACKY BASEBALL is his first creation for the 3-8 crowd.  Young baseball fans will love this nail-biter!

Peter, you're up!

Back when I was writing the Echo Falls mysteries (a middle-grade series for Harper), I was hit by a sudden and unexpected idea for a picture book. It arrived in the form of the title – Quacky Baseball – grew in minutes to a whole history of baseball starting from caveman times, and culminated in a ninth-inning nail-biter; all the players would be ducks, meaning there’d be cavemen ducks, which I was eager to see. I called my editor and told her the idea. She said it sounded interesting: “Write it up.” I wrote it up that very day – not many words in a picture book! – and a contract was drawn up soon after.

Time passed. My editor left and I began working with a new one. Frank Morrison was brought in to do the art. I checked out his work, loved it. Soon we discovered there was too much story. I cut out everything but the most dramatic and action-oriented component, meaning the nail-biter, Quackers versus Webbies. Those cavemen ducks? They’ll have to exist only in my mind. I came up with names for the players (I’m very big on getting the exact right names for characters in my work) such as the little hero, Thumby Duckling, and his teammates – Flakey Duckstein, Manny El Pato, Medwick Ducky (an inside-baseball joke I’m not sure anyone has gotten yet), and the others, all brought beautifully to life by Frank. My editor left and I began working with a new one. Yes, again: this is the kind of thing you have to get used to in publishing. I made a few last tweaks of the text to better match the final pictures, then put my feet up, smoked a cigar and retired to an assisted-living compound in Florida.

All of the above guaranteed 100% true (except for the cigar and Florida part).

Peter, thanks so much for stopping by!

Visit the rest of the stops on the QUACKY BASEBALL tour.

Comment here, or on any blog stop, for a chance to win a signed copy of the book.

Monday, March 28 Megan Frances Abrahams - On Beyond Words & Pictures - interview with Kristin Daly Rens, Senior Editor, Balzer & Bray

Tuesday, March 29 - Julie Musil Julie Musil - interview with Thumby Duckling - the main character - via author Peter Abrahams

Wednesday, March 30 - Corey Schwartz Corey Schwartz - author Peter Abrahams on the genesis of Quacky Baseball

Thursday, March 31 - Diane Browning - Out of the Paintbox - interview with illustrator Frank Morrison

Friday, April 1  Hilde Garcia Pen & Ink - interview with author Peter Abrahams

Saturday, April 2 - Lori Walker L.H. Walker - book review/synopsis with input from Lori's childre

Monday, March 28, 2011

Is Your Head in the Sand?

Today's topic is... wait for it...


Like politicians ('I did not have sexual relations with that woman'),  my mother-in-law's  favorite method of dealing with things is to  DENY DENY DENY.

When my sister-in-law got married, my MIL threw her a brunch the next day.  She had this conversation with the host.

MIL:  Excuse me, sir.  We need more seats and place settings.

HOST:  Well, Ma'am.  You said there would be ninety guests and there are clearly more. 

MIL: No there aren't

HOST:   Well, we set 90 places and they are all taken.  So, there have to be more than 90 people in attendance.

MIL:  No. There aren't.

We all put our heads in the sand sometimes.   A little voice inside kept trying to tell me this week that my chicken story had an issue, but I kept telling that voice to shut up!

Luckily, I have a friend  who was honest enough to call me on it.

As writers, we really need to listen to that voice. Denying that there is a problem is not going to get us publishing contracts!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Butterflies are Back

Sometimes, you get an idea... a shiny new idea that you are excited about... but for some reason, you can't get it off the ground.   This has been happening to me a lot lately. 

I get an idea.  I get that flittery, jittery feeling that comes when you know an idea is good.  I start writing.  And then... BAM!   I lose all enthusiasm for the project.

This occurred recently with a story that I'll refer to as HA.  (I don't know why, but I am suddenly tight-lipped about sharing titles.  I blabbed GOLDI ROCKS all over the blogosphere, but now I am being cautious)

So, anyway, Becky and I got the idea for HA in one of our brainstorming sessions.  We meet on Instant Message and just throw out anything that pops into our heads.  One thing led to another and DING DING DING, we hit the jackpot.  or so I thought.   It was clever.  It was fun.  It had a marketing hook   I got all tingly inside.  

Becky and I began outlining and drafting.  From the beginning, we couldn't agree on anything.  We spent an hour arguing about whether the MC should be male or female (I kid you not)  We had lengthy discussions about species (we finally decided upon gopher)  And we were conflicted about whether or not to have a refrain (we both liked the "idea" of a refrain, but it kept feeling forced.)

We got about halfway through a super rough draft and I absolutely HATED it.

So, we did  what anyone would do in our situation.

We ate a LOT of chocolate.

Then we gave ourselves some distance.   We worked on other things.

And when we were ready to take another look, I had an epiphany.  The MC needed to be a chicken.  I'm not sure why, but he just did.

We started over completely and we only have a few stanzas, but already it feels much more "right."

I am once again excited to work on it.  The butterflies are back!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Liar Society Blog Tour of Awesome- Evolution

You Say You Want Evolution...

The version of Liar Society that we queried with was 55,000 words. The published book is 78,000 words. To say that the book has evolved as we edited would be a HUGE understatement.

When we had our first conversation with our agent about the book she told us the book needed work. She had a few ideas about how we could improve the story we were trying to tell. We took her advice to heart and never looked back. After a couple of months of heavy revision we were ready to go out on sub. The book was right around 75,000 words and we were happy with the way we developed the characters and the plot.

And editors liked the book. A few liked it enough to suggest further revisions. So we revised again. We strengthened our central mystery. We got rid of these convenient little magic heart pills that appeared midway through the book. We gave Kate more of an edge, tried to make her grief more immediate. This version of the manuscript clocked in at 85,000 words.

And Sourcebooks bought that book. The fell in love with Kate and her secrets and her snooty school. And then of course we revised some more feedback. The book was too long. We had to cut. So we shaved off about 10,000 words to make things move faster in the beginning. And then we got a new editor, with some truly amazing ideas about Kate and the gang. That's when we added 8,000 NEW words. But they were good words. Words that strengthened our characters and made the book stronger. At least that's what we keep telling ourselves.

So yeah, for us: 55,000 words + 20,000 words + 10,000 words - 15,000 words + 8,000 DIFFERENT words = a fully evolved manuscript. Makes our heads hurt just thinking about it.

Psst...we have a secret. Click here, hit the Pemberly Brown Plaque. The password is CREST.

And if you want to enter The Liar Society Blog Tour of Awesome contest, and really, who wouldn't want to enter!?! There's a $100 Amazon gift card up for grabs! Just click here and enter the super secret password, CREST, for an entry. Remember you can enter one time for each stop on our blog tour, so be sure to click here and see where else we're visiting this month to maximize your chances of winning.

Audi, Vide, Tace,

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

You Gotta Have Friends

Tag, I'm it!  Tara Lazar wrote a post about the importance of having writer friends.  And then, well... she tagged me.  Why?  Because she and I have a particularly symbiotic relationship.  We each give ourselves credit for at least one picture book sale that the other has made!   (We think we have a decent shot of making that two each by the end of the year! :)

I have very few marketable skills (unless you happen to know of a position that pays for high Scrabble scores?)

But one thing I can do... I can spot a PB winner when I see one!

So, when Tara wrote The Monstore, I said, "Tara, this will sell.  Time to get yourself an agent."   I then gave her a referral to Ammi-Joan Paquette.  Joan and I had been in an online critique together years ago before she was an agent at Erin Murphy Literary Agency.  I had a sense of her style and taste and thought it would be a good fit. (though, honestly, I didn't think any agent would say no tot hat manuscript!)

Joan fell in love and quickly sold it to Aladdin,/Simon and Schuster. 

Tara didn't really need my help  The Monstore would have sold without me. But it sure is nice to have a friend's vote of confidence to get you through the lows of this industry.