Sunday, July 15, 2012

Vermont College of Fine Arts Residency (Part I)

Where to begin?

I'm on my sixth day of the ten-day residency at the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA) and all I can say is...Wow.

It's such an exhausting and exhilarating experience that I'm not sure what to even write about.  Let's put my random thoughts into bullet points, shall we?
  • We have amazing faculty members such as Tim Wynne-Jones, Rita Williams-Garcia, Martine Leavitt, An Na, and Matt de la Peña, among so many others.
  • Our writer-in-residence this semester is Newbery Award winning author Linda Sue Park, who's lovely, intelligent, and a wicked dancer.  I've only read When My Name was Keoko, which I loved; now I have to read the rest of her books!
  • I got my writing workshopped today for the first time ever and it wasn't bad.  Strange, having people talk about your work right in front of you (being a big fan of the editorial letter myself), but not bad.  The criticism was super constructive and I'm excited to begin implementing a lot of it into the piece.
  • There are lots and lots of readings, including student ones among their own classes for more intimacy.  Wimpy me did not take part in the readings this semester.  I suppose I'll have to force myself next semester, though I'm sure a certain classmate with whom I'll be connecting in the city--ahem, Tim--will continue to encourage (or bug) me while I'm away from VCFA.
  • VCFA had a great editorial panel answer questions about the publication process.  Editors from Penguin, Peachtree, Random House, and Egmont showed up in full force.  Nothing really new for me, but I generally enjoy these talks.  An editor from my job was there, actually, and I've been instructed to keep an eye out for budding writers.  Shouldn't be too hard, with all the talented people around me.
  • We get three square meals a day provided by the New England Culinary Institute, so good food here.  I'm pretty easy to please in that department, so I can only speak for myself, but still, everyone has to agree that their cookies rock, right?  The sugar rush alone keeps me going for hours on end.
  • I'm meeting all sorts of interesting people, from publishing folks I'd only known by reputation, to authors repped by my house (Hi Lisa and Pablo!), to the rest of my awesome first semester classmates who'll be suffering with me through the MFA process.

    I'm falling asleep as I type this, so until the next post!

    Wednesday, June 27, 2012

    Venturing into the Publishing Landscape

    I was having dinner with a lovely woman from the New School Writing for Children's MFA program (Hi if you're reading!).  She's a Latina like me and so among other things, we chatted about the Latino market in children's fiction (abysmal).  I could go on about that, but the diversity in children's lit issue is too big a topic for my energy level right now.  That's a post for another day.

    Anyhow, as we talked it occurred to me that a lot of aspiring writers don't really know the market.  They read the books they write, which is the most important thing (thumbs up on that one), but beyond that, don't really get what's going on in the business.  Strangely enough, being in publishing I sometimes forget that not everyone know the biz.  I get it, though.  You need to write the book of your heart, but you do need to know the market, too.  There's so much to know that how can these poor baby writers (I'm one, too, as a writing newbie) keep up?  I'm constantly learning, so I understand that even if baby writers would like to know more, they often don't know where to start and where to stop.

    Caveat before you start studying up: KEEP WRITING.  Seems obvious, but you'd be astonished at how many people are wondering about the querying process before they've even finished a manuscript.  Finish first, then worry about that later.  You're not going to get anywhere fiction-wise with an unfinished (and unrevised) manuscript.  So keep working at it, even if it's at a snail's pace.  A page per day, writers, that's all you need.

    I could go on about all the blogs and magazines I read to get my market fix, but this is my How to Get a Glimpse of the Publishing World for Dummies edition. I recommend doing these three basic things to get your feet wet.
    1. Those books you've been reading for pleasure and research?  Check out the acknowledgements page.  The author will typically thank their editor and/or agent for their success.  You'll start recognizing who works with the books you love and who could conceivably work with you down the line.
    2. Subscribe to Publisher's Lunch.  It's a daily digest of publishing tidbits you should keep abreast of--book deals, publishing staff moves (where editor and agent names will become familiar), the digital battlefield, etc.  It's free to subscribe to the email.  It's only paid if you want the full Deluxe Publisher's lunch version, which you don't really need (Hmmm...I bet you can even read Publishers Weekly magazine at your local library for the full monty; still, the gratis daily email would be enough for you).
    3. Join Twitter, if you haven't already done so.  You're a children's book writer.  Even if you don't want to join, nowadays you have to.  Besides writing, writers now have to be involved in social media to stay relevant (Yes, there are exceptions, but this is the norm now).  Follow your favorite authors, book bloggers, agents, and editors.  You'd be surprised at the connections you'll make.  And the amount of information buzzing on twitter is insane.  You'll be a publishing pro in no time.
    Follow those three steps for the bare bones approach to learning industry information.  If you've already done those three things, then you're ahead of the game!  I'll compile a more extensive list for intermediate people in the future.  Any suggestions on what to add?

    Monday, June 18, 2012

    What NetGalley Isn't

    I work in publishing, but I'm a reader as well.  I work in publishing because I'm such a reader.  Which means, I love books.  Especially books I don't have to pay for.  Which brings me to NetGalley.

    NetGalley's awesome.  I can request access to a title and if it's granted, can have it sent directly to my Kindle (don't judge--it was a gift!).   No muss, no fuss.  Free ARCs, yay!  Big love as a reader.

    Plus, I'm part of the team at my publishing house responsible for uploading middle grade and teen ARCs to NetGalley and recently attended a meeting with the lovely NetGalley team at Book Expo America two weeks ago.  Suffice it to say, I'm pretty familiar with NetGalley.  Big love as a marketer.

    Now the dark side...

    As an industry insider, I tend to get approved for access to NetGalley e-requests.  If I were a casual reader (read: non-professional reader), I would likely get denied.  Why insiders and not casual readers?  Well, I'll tell you why (Office Space reference).  Because people like me build industry buzz like bloggers, librarians, and booksellers do, which is the audience NetGalley and Edelweiss (our e-catalog) was created for.  Yep, you heard it here.  NetGalley is for bloggers, librarians, and booksellers, along with a smattering of other publishing insiders like yours truly.

    So it scares me when I see authors tweeting about their latest work being up on NetGalley (Beautiful authors, please be careful and talk to your publicists before doing this so you can add stipulations in your broadcast, if they even give you the go ahead to do this on twitter).

    We publishing folk don't do it to leave our lovely readers out, really.  I know it feels like that when you get denied.  It makes you want to cry (I know it would make me want to, for a book I was super excited about).  And rant and rave and threaten to take down the publishing company (I personally wouldn't, but you'd be surprised at what's said on twitter.  Or perhaps you wouldn't be).

    Insider's look at the process:  When you click that NetGalley request button, it gets sent to an in-box.  An overflowing in-box.  That's when someone from the marketing or publicity team (Let's call her Jane) combs through the hundreds of requests to see if they're to be denied or approved.  That takes time (it's practically a full-time job in and of itself), since Jane has to check each requestor's profile and verify who they are by going to their blogs or checking with bookstores to verify employment.  If the requestor doesn't meet the established requestor criteria, it's a "deny." 

    So please don't: Set up a fake blog, steal an employee id and pretend you work at a bookstore (we've called places only to be told, no, so-and-so doesn't work here), and especially,  request a title multiple times (usually through NetGalley AND Edelweiss).  It makes life harder for us.  It eats up our time rejecting you several times and if we would have been nice enough to give you a break before, we certainly wouldn't do it after that.  We have long memories.

    Please understand that when we say no, we don't do it to make you sad or mad.  We love books and readers.  They rock and so do you!  Just keep in mind that publishing is indeed a business.  We can't give away all our new books.  We still need to sell them so we can eat once in awhile.  And that so can your lovely authors.  You want them to eat, too, don't you?  So that they have the strength to keep penning awesome books?

    Tuesday, May 15, 2012

    Preparing for Vermont College of Fine Arts

    My first residency at the Vermont College of Fine Arts is drawing closer and I'm getting more excited and nervous!  Last Friday, in addition to my bill (which is scary in and of itself), I received information about...dun dun dun...the writing workshop.  Commence nail biting.

    I'm to submit fifteen to twenty pages of my work in progress by 3 PM on Friday, June 1st.  I have most of it done already, but it needs major overhaul before it's ready for people's eyes.  That's the scariest part of the MFA program for me, the idea that people actually have to, you know, look at my work.  It makes me feel naked.

    An editor friend offered to look at some of my work, but I demurred, mainly because we work together.  It's even more uncomfortable if you work with someone and they read you work and hate it.  Then they have to be nice about their hatred since you see them often.  And then I become the idiot who doesn't know how bad she writes.  

    Well, nosiree.

    It's too awkward.  I wouldn't want to put that kind of pressure on anyone.  I know about the pity reads they provide, as I've done a few myself (I won't even mention the ones I did for agents who promised to read their friends of friends' work--Yep, that detailed yet nice rejection came from me!).

    So if any of my editor friends are reading this--You are too cool to abuse, so I vow to never to come up to you and ask you to read my work.  You have plenty of bad reading as it is, so why would I do that to you?

    Agents are another story. 

    Sunday, May 6, 2012

    Children's Book Nostalgia

    I've worked on the adult side of publishing and as much as I enjoyed it, it doesn't compare to the love I have for children's books.  I now work with books ranging from picture books to young adult, and I couldn't be happier.

    I read adult books (though not as much as I used to, living in kiddie land), but I have a soft spot for children's books that I don't have for their older counterparts.  There are wonderful and affecting adult books (like Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone, which is one of my favorite books of all time), but it's my contention that children's books touch us in a way adult ones don't.  As children, we read children's books and they become part of our identity in a special way.  We grow up with them and even if we look back at some of them now and shake our heads, we can't help but acknowledge the indelible impression they've left on us.

    As a kid, I was obsessed with the Sweet Valley High series.  I even subscribed to their book mailing and looked forward to getting a new book each month.  Let's not get started with the TV series it spawned, which I watched each Saturday (When I was 15, as a matter of fact, in Manhattan I ran into one of the actors who played Todd Wilkins!).  I cried when I missed an episode once, a fact that my sister refuses to let me live down.  Flipping through this series now, I realize how terribly soap opera-esque they were, but I still love 'em, flaws and all.

    I was also hooked on teen horror and paranormals--Christopher Pike, R.L. Stine, Annette Curtis-Klause, Richie Tankersley-Cusick, Lael Littke--I could go on and on, so I'll stop there.  I'd amassed so many books that I had to give most of them away at some point.  Now, thanks to my love-hate relationship with Amazon, I've been able to locate and purchase some the out-of-print books  once owned and loved.

    Whenever I buy the used books, I make sure they have the original covers, since that's what makes them extra special to me.  Repackaged covers are great for drawing in new generations of readers. Those old school covers spark memories that new shiny ones just don't.  I see a cover I recognize from childhood and I just get goosebumps.

    Speaking of which, I was a Goosebumps fan.  (See?  Most things just remind me of books!  And, yes, I also watched the TV series.)

    Hmmm...since it appears I've written a love letter to Francine Pascal and R.L. Stine, let's throw in some Judy Blume love.

    What about you?  Do you have any children's books that bring back memories?

    Wednesday, April 25, 2012

    Colberty Tales

    How I love Colberty Tales.  Steve Colbert rocks!  Check out his hilarious interview with Julie Andrews.  Does he actually get her to sing with him.  Watch to find out!

    Tuesday, April 17, 2012

    Not-So-Nice Agents

    Sorry for the lag between posts!  I just returned from a much needed European vacation.  Am now poor.  Which is good for anyone who actually reads my blog!  I now have more time to write since I can't afford to do much now.

    Today I had lunch with an editor and we chit chatted (aka gossiped) about people in the industry.  As you might recall, I work in marketing, but my long term goal is to transition into editorial and eventually agenting; whichever comes first, really.   I interned at an agency a couple years back and loved it.  Agenting is tough work, but ultimately rewarding, if you enjoy the combination of the creative and business sides of the industry.  Once you've worked your way up from the junior levels to focus on your own client list, you have an amazing amount of freedom (and stress, too) to shape the careers of your writers.

    Talking to my editor friend and other editors, I've noticed that agents aren't always looked on too fondly, though.  Unfortunately, there are far too many agents who are...a wee bit aggressive, to put it politely.  Or to put it impolitely, jerks.  Those are the agents that view client-editor negotiation with an "us vs them" mentality.  And once the deal is struck, they're the ones who don't know how to back off to give the editor room to do his work.  

    As a future agent, I get that an agent wants the best deal for his client.  But there's a right way and a wrong way to do it, the latter involving attack mode.  Good agents know the difference. 

    Not-so-nice agents aside, there are plenty of agents who do a fantastic job of keeping both the editors and their clients happy (We just don't talk about them as much, since the not-so-nice ones stick out more, sorry).  

    If you're an aspiring writer who's new to the publishing biz, you might wonder, Well, how do I find me some good agents?  There's a lot of info out there, so I understand the quandary.   You can always check Preditors & Editors for the basics, of course, but a great site that comes to mind is Literary Rambles.  Literary intern Casey McCormick and aspiring children's writer Natalie Aguirre have taken the time to profile literary agents (do these bloggers even sleep?).

    Literary Rambles is a helpful site, as is Pub Rants, a blog written by super agent Kristin Nelson (a dream agent of mine, if I were ever published!).  Another site that rocks is former agent turned author Nathan Bransford's blog.  

    Hmmm...I might have to do a post where I compile my favorite industry-related blogs.   Either way, those four are a good start!

    Friday, March 30, 2012

    Dystopian Chatter

    I'm part of Young-to-Publishing Group, a group of publishing young'uns who haven't been in the biz for too long (no longer than seven years) and who get together every so often to hang and network.   On Wednesday, the children's group contingent hosted a Dystopian Panel at HarperCollins (led by lovely assistant editor Sara Sargent).

    The panel consisted of Greg Ferguson (Editor at Egmont USA who acquired Ilsa Bick's Ashes), Rosemary Brosnan (fellow Cornellian--woo hoo!--and Executive Editor at HarperTeen who edits Lauren Oliver's Delirium trilogy), Stephanie O'Cain (publicist at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers--you know home of Twilight) and Galaxy Craze (author of the upcoming The Last Princess).  

    I haven't read The Last Princess yet, but it's a dystopia set in London, so I plan to put that on top of my stack.
    The panelists shared their excitement about the genre and their thoughts on where the YA market is heading.  What I found especially interesting is how little author Galaxy Craze knows about the market.  She wrote The Last Princess in conjunction with a book packager in shaping the idea, so obviously they know the market.  Galaxy Craze, not so much.  It was oddly refreshing.

    If you're an aspiring writing in a particular genre, you absolutely should read within it, no question.  Galaxy Craze is just one of those unique individuals who had unwittingly read what she liked and wrote something which coincided with a trend, which is fine.  Stephenie Meyer had never even read much vampire fiction and she wrote Twilight, so my rule isn't a hard and fast one (then again Twilight doesn't feel traditionally vampirey for a vamp book). 

    There are always exceptions.  Still, for you aspiring writers out there, I recommend doing your research.  Paying the bills by writing means writing the book of your heart, but understanding the market.  And no, if there's a trend that you're not familiar with and have no interest in writing, please don't hop on the bandwagon just because.  You can do better than that.  Passion + Market are significant, but Passion alone will do it in a pinch. 

    Why?  One, if you don't care for the genre, you're not likely to write a decent one.  And two, editors are already acquiring for 2014 books, so your trend hopping self will have already missed the boat by the time your book comes out (if an agent or editor even gives your manuscript the time of day in this competitive market).

    The panelists all mentioned their favorite dystopian books, like Lois Lowry's The Giver (optioned by Jeff Bridge's production company, so maybe it'll come to the big screen), Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Veronica Roth's Divergent, Cormac McCarthy's The Road, and Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, of course.  To add to the list, I loved Moira Young's Blood Red Road, Lauren DeStefano's Wither, Scott Westerfeld's The Uglies, Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It, and Carrie Ryan's Forest of Hands and Teeth series (my FAVE).

    The panelists talked about the irregularities of censorship, with Greg joking, "Yeah, parents don't seem to mind children killing each other or like in my book Ashes, kids eating each other.  Just don't mention sex or bad words."

    [Side note:  Greg Ferguson is a sweetheart and a kick ass editor.  You have to read Ashes!  See below for cool cover.]

    The takeaway from the panel is, as always, a wait and see response.  We won't be seeing the last of dystopian, only variations of it, like the sci fi dystopian trend that already occurring.  Another trend?  Fairytale retellings, which I never tire of, so keep 'em coming.  Paranormals are still pretty strong, though I don't recommend pitching vampires unless there's a twist.  Vampires are dead, no pun intended. 

    Wishlist?  As a Walking Dead fan, I would like to see more zombies.  I'd also like to see more fairies (dark like Melissa Marr's) and mermaids!  Mermaids haven't caught on quite yet, but if done right, could be big.  Rosemary Brosnan would like to see more historicals, along the vein of Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy (agreed!).

    Anything you'd like to see more of?  Less of?  I gotta admit, I may have liked the episode or two of Gossip Girl, but I can't stand to read the books.  The rich prep school stories don't do it for me.  And please, I like paranormals, but no more protagonist-goes-off-to-boarding school-and-falls-in-love-with-hot-brooding-angel/vampire/fairy.  Can't.  Take.  It.  Much.  Longer.

    Wednesday, March 21, 2012


    I started reading an ARC which made me unreasonable angry.  Was it offensive?  No.  Was it bad writing?  No.

    It's because it was far too close to Roswell, a TV show I absolutely loved in the late 90s.  (Which in itself is based on Melinda Metz's book series, but I digress).

    I'm such a fan girl about it that as soon as I started reading and saw how the relationship between the protagonists were set up exactly the same way and a side character had the same name and similar role as a Roswell character, I wanted to throw the book to the floor and stomp it dead.  Again, not exactly a reasonable response for someone who can tolerate just about anything in her books.  Seriously, I'm very liberal.  You write it, I'll read it (Case in point:  Tabitha Suzuma's Forbidden, a YA novel featuring incest, I happened to like, thank you very much.  Do I like incest?  No.  Do I like an engaging story?  Yes!).

    I paused in my reading and tried to give the author the benefit of the doubt, telling myself it was just a coincidence.  She might not even be familiar with the show.  After looking at her blog, though, I saw that she was indeed a fan (sigh). 

    I did try to consider this ARC from a publisher's perspective, despite my visceral reaction (Max and Liz forever!).  Practically every novel in the market is a derivation of another, so was it really fair to be so harsh?  In my biased opinion, I would have changed the set up some, so as not to be so gosh darn close, but still.  The author does have the right to do what she's done here, which is re-imagine.  I was peeved for about a week, but I calmed myself with the realization.  I also laughed at myself for not being as impartial as I'm wont to be.  It had been awhile since I'd read something not as a publishing insider, but as a plain old reader.

    My sister told me to stop reading it, but I wanted to give the author a chance.  Would she go off in a new direction, at least?  I'm glad to say that, yes, she has (phew!).  I haven't finished it yet, but it is good.  It's getting rave responses on Goodreads and is clearly introducing more teens to an area of sci-fi (and new potential Roswell devotees) I happen to love.

    The debut will be published this April, so have a read.

    Wednesday, March 7, 2012

    Surrounded by Talent

    Working in book publishing, I'm surrounded by talent--and it's not just on the author side.  I'm talking about my colleagues who also moonlight as writers.  I can't say I'm surprised that so many publishing folks write on the side.  We all love books so much that a lot of us can't resist the siren call of creating them ourselves, and if we're really lucky, getting them published.

    How do they do it?   I suspect there's a lot of sacrificed sleep time, but if you ask me, it's all worth it.  Two recent cover reveals belong to people I work with, so kudos to them!

    First up is Alexandra Bracken, whose fantasy Young Adult novel Brightly Woven, was pubbed by Egmont in 2010 (highly recommended).  Alex's latest project, The Darkest Minds, is part of a new paranormal series coming out in Summer 2012 (Disney Hyperion).  I totally swiped the description below from her website.

    In the six years since being plucked from her old life and placed in a government-run “rehabilitation camp,” the only color that has entered sixteen-year-old Ruby’s world is gray of the electric fence surrounding it. The mysterious “Kid-Killer” affliction has left most American children dead, but Ruby is not one of them—she’s one of the dangerous ones, the ones who lived.
    The ones who developed frightening powers of the mind.
    When the opportunity to escape her camp comes, Ruby soon finds herself on the run and joining forces with a small band of other escapees: Zu, a mute girl who can telekinetically control electronics, Chubs, a skinny genius who doesn’t want another kid along to deplete their meager supplies, and Liam, the kind and good-hearted leader of their ragtag group who can move objects twice his size with the wave of a hand. They seem to be on a mission but won’t confide in Ruby, who only wants to learn to control her extraordinary ability which makes her a danger to anyone she gets close to.
    The gang soon learns that there are other forces at work, organizations that want to use Ruby in their fight against the tyranny of the political regime. But they also learn there may be someone who can help them all reunite with their families after all: The Slip Kid, a leader who offers shelter to young people in danger and who possesses the secret to controlling one’s powers. As she finds herself drawn to Liam, Ruby becomes more and more desperate for the knowledge she has always craved. But the Slip Kid is not all that he seems, and Ruby soon finds herself unsure of who to trust…and who to love.

    Next up is Ellie Rollins, whose Middle Grade debut Zip is coming out later this year from Razorbill.  Isn't it the most whimsical cover?  It puts me in mind of Disney/Pixar's Up, for some reason.

    Description pulled from Amazon: 

    A girl discovers adventure at every highway turn in this effervescent debut that's Savvy meets Little Miss Sunshine

    After Lyssa's mother dies, her kind but clueless new stepfather moves with her to the suburbs of Seattle in the hopes of making a fresh start. But Lyssa feels lost and adrift in the rainy Northwest without her mom. And when she finds out that her old house in Texas is about to be bulldozed, something snaps inside her. Fiercely determined, Lyssa climbs onto her scooter and sets off cross-country to save her home.

    Beautifully written and sparkling with magic, 
    Zip is a modern-day successor to Alice in Wonderland. It's a joyful Odyssey-esque journey that's perfect for the readers of Savvy.

    Interestingly enough, Amazon connects Zip to Ingrid Law's Savvy, a *Writers House book, and Alexandra Bracken is a Writers House author, so everything seems to point to my former place of employ, which I love!

    *Writers House is a literary agency, representing the likes of Stephenie Meyer, Neil Gaiman, John Green, Melissa Marr, and Christopher Paolini, among so many others.

    Wednesday, February 29, 2012

    Weighty Matters

    So there's this girl who has a blog (no, not me!).  Liz is a twenty-something Canadian who's been chronicling her weight loss from 200-ish pounds to her goal of 125.  She's halfway there and I've been rooting for her as I lurked around her blog.

    She's nice and pretty and very candid as she tries to find herself on her weight loss journey.  I still maintain that she's nice, despite a recent blog post that sparked some backlash.  In the post, Liz talks a new friend she made who she estimates must weigh around 300 lbs.  She and her friend touched on the subject of weight loss, naturally.  The friend wishes she could lose weight and took some steps to do so, like joining a gym, but still has a self-defeating attitude, since she says she's tried everything, but to no avail.  In the next breath, the friend orders something fatty, which to Liz, signals she isn't fully committed to losing weight.

    Liz writes in One Twenty Five:

    "I saw myself in her so much. Really, I did. It was actually so bizarre how much I related to this girl I had literally met a mere 40 minutes before. As she talked to me about her weight, wanting to lose weight, and her plan, I could see through it. She wasn’t ready to actually lose it. She isn’t ready. She hadn’t 100% committed. Simple, really. I know she’s going to fail at whatever routine she is on now… why? because everything she said, also came with an excuse.
    • I have a trainer, but she can’t make me sweat too much because I have work after (RED FLAG).
    • Well, calories don’t matter because I work out (RED FLAG)
    • I’ve tried everything! (me: Calorie counting?) No. I hate writing things down
    • My mom, sister and brother are all over weight. It’s in my genes (RED FLAG)
    • Did you know it takes more calories to burn certain fruits, than eat them? (RED FLAG)
    • It’s 50% food. 50% exercise. (HUGE RED FLAG)"

    I totally get what Liz is trying to convey in comparing their situations and ultimately, their level of commitment to getting healthy.  The problem is that Liz comes off as...well, judgmental, to put it nicely.  Or an "asshole," as one commenter said not-so-nicely.  I wouldn't go that far, but I have to admit, I felt a little uncomfortable reading the post and even winced once or twice.  As a former over-300-pound person, I felt kind of bad about the mild condemnation, and dare I say it, condescension, in Liz's tone.  In Liz's defense, she did acknowledge her own weakening will power, but still...I don't know.

    Maybe it's because it doesn't seem sporting to compare a morbidly obese person to how she herself used to be.  I completely agree that anyone who attempts to lose any weight, be it 100 pounds or 10 pounds, needs to make a commitment and take the necessary steps.  But comparing  one's own issues to someone else's is a tricky endeavor.  Liz doesn't have as much weight to lose as her friend does, so even if Liz is being sincere (which I think she is), she comes off as self-righteous.  

    That's the thing about public fora, though.  You can't control how others will interpret your words, no matter how tactful you try to be.  How do you respond to backlash?  Do you ignore it or address it head-on?  I wonder what Liz's reaction will be.

    Wednesday, February 15, 2012

    My Publishing Career, Part V

    So I was an intern at Dorchester, an independent press that specializes in romance and horror fiction.  As someone who used to read tons of romance from the Love Spell imprint, I was very excited to work there.   The good thing about working for such a small company (about ten people on the book side, since they also owned a magazine) was that I was able to rotate through editorial, publicity, marketing, and managing editorial.  Even more exciting was how I finally got to work on front list titles, as opposed to dealing with the back end of things as I had in reprints, which was quite dull.

    In the midst of that internship, I also decided to go back to school; I got into NYU's masters in publishing program, but without financial aid, the costs were prohibitive.  I withdrew immediately and took advantage of my student status to later secure internships at Simon & Schuster, Random House children's, and Writers House Literary Agency.  I was interning full-time for no pay (with the exception of Writers House, which did in fact pay a stipend), but I thankfully had my parents' financial support to back me up.

    I was applying to jobs all the while and getting many interviews, but no job offers.  Some weren't the right fit, but I was often shut out by internal transfers and people who already had jobs (sadly, it's easier to get a job if you already have one).  It was aggravating.  I was on the verge of giving up when it finally happened.  

    After two-and-a-half years of working for free, I received two offers.  It was a tough decision because they're both great places, but I made my decision and haven't regretted it for a minute.  I'm now working at a major children's publishing house and I absolutely love it.  I'm on the marketing side of things and enjoy peddling kids' books to the masses.  I'm not exactly where I'd like to be (I'd like to move into editorial down the line), but I can honestly say I'm happy where I am.  

    I'm lucky, what can I say?

    Wednesday, February 8, 2012

    Two Cool Things

    So, two things:

    Vermont College of Fine Arts Admission Packet

    I got my Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA packet and am stoked (Have never used the word and yet it feels so right).  I brought home some work, so I'm saving the packet for the weekend when I can absorb it all, but I just wrote up the check to send off my deposit first thing in the AM.  I will not give VCFA the chance to change their minds.  Once they cash that check, they're on the hook.  I'm all theirs and there's nothing they can do about it.  Bwah ha ha ha!

    Girl Scout Cookie Love

    I finally got me some Girl Scout cookies!  As a Girl Scout Cookie newb, I have just eaten some Samoas and Thin Mints.  Where have you been all my life?  My sister and I have been speculating as to the ingredients that are used to make these cookies so awesome. Our conclusion is as follows:  Crack + Girl Scout sacrifices.  

    Whatever it is they're doing, I'm officially endorsing it, sacrificial lambs be damned!  Girl Scouts, I will no longer avoid you when I pass you peddling your wares.  I will now pursue you in a fashion I can only describe as "avid."  You have been warned.  

    Tomorrow I will be moving onto the Tagalongs and Trefoils.

    Saturday, February 4, 2012

    MFA Application Success

    Yesterday I received the answer from the MFA program:  I've been ACCEPTED!!  

    I missed the call, but when I checked my cell, I practically hyperventilated when I saw that the phone number was the program director's.  I experienced a moment of doubt as I dialed my voicemail to retrieve the message, but my fears were allayed when I listened to it.  I should be receiving my acceptance package sometime next week, so once I sign on the dotted line, I will be officially enrolled in the Vermont College of Fine Arts for the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

    It's a low-residency program, conducted by correspondence and with twice-yearly two-week stays on campus.  The faculty is stellar, all accomplished writers like Martine Leavitt, Matt de la Peña, An Na, and Franny Billingsley, among so many others I don't have the space to list!  And the graduates?  Just as accomplished:  Jandy Nelson, Lauren Myracle, Carrie Jones--again, I could go on.

    I'm honored to join the VCFA community and can't believe I actually can.  I may have slipped in by mistake, but I won't say anything if you don't!

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012

    MFA Application

    So the Director of the MFA program I applied to called me yesterday afternoon while I was at work.  Very exciting!  I could tell she and the faculty like my application materials, BUT if I could re-submit something?

    I had a feeling that was coming (sigh).  She was referring to a critical essay on a piece of children's lit and I wasn't exactly sure what the committee was looking for, so I sent in something I had written in the past, hoping it would suffice.  My gut instinct told me maybe, maybe not.  I was uncertain.  And a bit lazy, truth be told.

    The director was really sweet and said that the faculty just wanted to be 100% sure I'd be able to write a critical essay, so would I be okay with re-submitting that part of my application?  Would I be okay?  Of course!

    The fact that the director called me has to mean something good, right?  Even if I don't ultimately get accepted, they're at least considering me, I hope.  Otherwise, why even bother calling?

    The director said I could take the time I needed with writing the critical essay (approx 3-4 pages), a week if I needed it.  She said she didn't want to make feel like I should do it overnight or something, to which I responded, "Oh, you have no idea!"  She laughed.

    So naturally, I wrote that sucker in a few hours and emailed it before 9 AM this morning.  I think I did a decent job of it.  It's been a few years since I graduated Cornell, but I apparently remembered something from all the paper writing I did then.  I'm glad that's over with!

    Now I just have to wait 1-2 weeks for the decision.  Dun, dun, dun...

    Friday, January 27, 2012

    Maurice Sendak, Loveable Curmudgeon

    If I ever loved children's publishing, I love it all the more because of Maurice Sendak's hilarious two-part interview on The Colbert Report in a segment called Colberty Tales.

    Check him out--you will die laughing.

    Part I

    Part II

    Love Maurice Sendak and Stephen Colbert!  And if Colbert's picture book were ever published, I would buy it in a heartbeat!

    Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    2012 ALA Awards

    This past Monday, I was riveted by the Oscars of the children's publishing world: The ALA Awards (short for the American Library Association).  The ALA Youth Media Awards are given to the best children's book authors and illustrators of the year, chosen by national committees comprised of librarians and kid lit experts.

    It's a very exciting time, especially when you hear the cheering from different sides of the floor when winners are announced (Yesterday there was quite the cake to be had at our celebration).

    You can check out the winners here, but allow me to name the two super awards of the year:

    The John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature:
    Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos 

    The Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:
    A Ball for Daisy illustrated and written by Chris Raschka

    Congrats to the authors and the publishing teams behind them!

    Now feast your eyes on the splendor of our celebratory cake.  You almost don't want to cut into it!

    Sunday, January 22, 2012

    My Publishing Career, Part IV

    I went on several other interviews before I started getting desperate.  I couldn't fathom why something that had a cinch before had gotten so difficult.

    Six months into the job search, I decided to expand to internships.  I didn't even care that they were unpaid; I just wanted back in.  Problem was, I wasn't a student or a recent grad (within 6 months of graduation) and internships liked students.  I applied to various ones anyway, since I wanted to at least see if someone would bite.

    I re-organized my résumé and made my cover letter snappy (I worked at Penguin with Charlaine Harris and Nora Roberts books!  I ruled, blah, blah, blah).

    Months passed and I happened to see an internship posting for a small press that looked promising.  I got in touch with the coordinator (a girl who was my age, but I tried to overlook that fact).  She was really nice and I had a meeting with her for the summer internship.

    I didn't get it.

    I didn't let that stop me, though.  I emailed a nice note, thanking her for her consideration and letting her know that I was interested enough to wait around for the next internship possibility in the Fall, if she was still interested.  I didn't hear back, but no worries.  They probably got emails like that all the time and couldn't actually respond to all of them.

    I waited until the coordinator was likely recruiting for the next round, so two months later, I emailed her again to re-affirm my interest, even offering to come in for another interview.  She said she remembered me and that she would definitely keep me in mind for the opening.  No additional meeting was necessary. I thanked her again.

    A month later, I sent another email asking if she'd arrived at her decision yet.  About two minutes after it was sent, she responded, saying that, what a coincidence!  I had the position and she was about to email me.  Now if it was true or not (she might have just been tired of hearing from me), I didn't care.  I was over the moon!  I'd gotten my foot back in the door.

    I was now a Fall intern at Dorchester Publishing.

    (If you think the story is finished, well no, not quite.)

    EDIT:  Unfortunately, Dorchester isn't doing so well now.  They're in a bit of a pickle.

    Friday, January 20, 2012

    Edgar Award Nominees 2012

    The 2012 Edgar Award Nominees--books the Mystery Writers of America have chosen as the best of the past year--were announced yesterday.   The winners will be selected in New York City on April 26th.

    Since I focus on children's publishing, here are the nominees for those categories:


    Horton Halfpott by Tom Angleberger
    It Happened on a Train by Mac Barnett
    Vanished by Sheela ChariIcefall by Matthew J. Kirby
    The Wizard of Dark Street by Shawn Thomas Odyssey

    Young Adult

    Shelter by Harlan Coben 
    The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson 
    The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall 
    The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines
    Kill You Last by Todd Strasser

    Congrats to the all the nominees!  And to all the publishing folks who worked on these books!  One in particular I have to call out is associate editor Allison Wortche, whose book The Silence of Murder is on the YA list.  Yay!

    Allison is also a talented writer whose picture book Rosie Sprout's Time to Shine debuted last month.

    Coupled with Patrice Barton's lush illustrations, the story is relatable to children who don't feel like they're at the top of the class.  Little Rosie is an adorable number two who learns that everyone can shine even in their own humble way.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012

    My Publishing Career, Part III

    Since I absolutely HAD to go to Harvard or Yale Law, my so-so LSAT score wasn't going to cut it.   I didn't know what I was going to do if I couldn't get into a top school.  If I had to go anywhere else, I didn't want to go at all.

    After quite a bit of thinking and chocolate gorging, I realized something: I didn't want to go to law school.   I realized that if I ONLY wanted to go to those schools and nowhere else, I wasn't so much interested in law, but prestige.  I was only obsessed with prestige and money, which are terrible reasons to choose a profession.  So after having taken the LSAT, gotten my recommendations, and all but filled out the applications, I simply dropped the matter.

    I decided to go back to my first passion:  Book publishing, which I wound up missing after all.  I definitely did not miss reprints, so I figured on getting into another department, though I wasn't sure which.  Publicity?  Marketing?  Editorial?

    Either way, I figured it would be a piece of cake to land another publishing job, seeing as how it had been so easy the first time.  I sent out my resume and got a call back right away from HarperCollins.  I went in for a managing editorial opening and left feeling pretty good about it.

    I was rejected.

    I got called in for an interview at Harlequin next.  I went it and felt good about that one.

    I got rejected again.

    All I could think was, Are you kidding me?  That thought would resonate over the next couple of years.