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.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Flavor

I had to post this Hunger Games Hamburger Helper trailer a friend of mine found.  Hilarious!

Hmmmph. . . I'm Team Peeta, but still, I have to give this one props (Note to self: Learn to make trailers pronto so I can combat the Team Gale-ers),

The Hunger Games movie is so close I can taste it--March 23rd, here I come!

Thanks to Hunger Games, I've been on a dystopian kick the past couple of years.  I'm reading Lia Habel's Dearly, Departed, a zombie dystopian steam punk book I'm liking so far.

Dystopian books I enjoyed in 2011 (I'm sure I'm missing some, but these are the highlights):
Veronica Roth's Divergent
Lauren DeStefano's Wither
Carrie Ryan's Forest of Hands and Teeth series (especially The Dark and Hollow Places)--author crush alert!
Beth Revis's Across the Universe and A Million Suns
Moira Young's Blood Red Road (wow!)
James Dashner's Maze Runner series
Catherine Fisher's Incarceron and Sapphique

Battling for my next dystopian fix, these are currently in my to-be-read pile:
Veronica Rossi's Under the Never Sky
Alley Condie's Crossed
Lauren DeStefano's Fever
Julianna Baggott's Pure
Lauren Oliver's Delirium
Amy Kathleen Ryan's Glow
Robinson Wells's Variant
Jeyn Roberts's Dark Inside
Joe Treggiari's Ashes, Ashes
Lissa Price's Starters
Anna Carey's Eve
Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me
Elana Johnson's Possession

And that's only for starters, which is kind of scary.  If anyone recommends one over the other, feel free to let me know, seriously.  I'll likely just close my eyes and read for the first one I grab.  That might help.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My Publishing Career, Part II

Where were we?  Oh right, law school.

I left Penguin and went straight to Princeton Review's LSAT tutorial (Well, maybe not straight.  I may have spent a month planted on my parents' couch doing nothing, but that's beside the point).

The first night at Princeton Review, they gave us a sample test to gauge our abilities and split us into three classes, ranging from from the Brilliant Prospects to the You-Need-all-the-Help-You-Can-Get class.  I fell into the middle with Might-Have-Possibilities-if-You-Don't-Screw-it-Up people.  Promising.

LSAT studying was as tedious as can be expected, but I met two people in my section: A fellow Cornellian who eventually tested out of our section (hello, Yale Law) and a really cool girl named Ingrid who stayed with me as we remained average.  She sought me out that first night because she had a goldfish named after me (My full name is a more unusual Spanish one, so that was quite a coincidence, to say the least).  I had to mention Ingrid because she was the only good thing that came out of that LSAT class.  We're still friends and I like to think I paid $1400 for her.

Anyway, I took the LSAT.  Is the test insanely difficult?  Well, yes and no.  It's pretty straightforward if you can learn how to take it properly.  It's better for the mathematically-bent minds, where there's one answer per question and that's that.  For me, there were usually two answers that worked for each question.  LSAT evaluators don't hold with that sort of thinking, unfortunately.  I overanalyze things, what can I say?  I was great at Reading Comp, but sucked at Logic Games.  I don't like puzzles; my mind just doesn't work that way.

[Sample logic game]

Mary goes to the other end of the city to meet her grandmother 2-3 times a week.
On her way the following stops are made according to her mode of transport.
The buses stop at L, M, N and O, in that order.
Express trains stop at N only
Early local trains stop at P, Q, N, and R only, in that order
Late local trains stop at P, Q, and R only, in that order
On her way back to her  house the routes are reversed
The buses stop at O, N, M, and L, in that order
Express trains stop at N only
Early local trains stop at R, N, Q, and P only, in that order
Late local trains stop at R, Q, and P only, in that order
The bus station is next to the train station near her house, at N, and near her grandmother’s house

I took the test and promptly panicked, cancelling that score before I could see it.  After six months of additional 6-hour-a-day studying, I re-took the test.  I scored pretty well, but nowhere near brilliant.  And brilliant is what I needed if I wanted to get into a top law school.

Maybe it was time to re-evaluate my goals.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

My Publishing Career, Part I

I was having lunch with a couple of new hires the other day and they were talking about what they'd done before they came here.  Inevitably, the question came right along back to me.

"What about you?  What did you do before?"

If only that were a question I could answer concisely!  My journey in the publishing biz has been a little backwards, if you want to know the truth.  You see, there are two kinds of people in publishing: Those who struggled to get in and those who were lucky to fall into it.  I straddle both categories.  Impossible, you say?  Allow me to explain.

I graduated from college in 2005 with no clear idea of what I wanted to do.  I'd thought about it for the longest, honest!  I'd gone through the doctor stage, the lawyer stage, the businesswoman stage, the broadcast journalist stage and, eventually, the psychologist stage before coming up with...bupkis.

Go, Big Red!

It was over lunch with an alum who'd graduated some years back that the idea of book publishing came up.  I loved to read, she said, so that might be a place to start.  My friend then connected me to a human resources person she'd met.  The HR lady got in touch with me and I submitted my resume for an editorial opening (the most sought after) which didn't pan out.  The HR lady then asked if I might be interested in a job in reprints, and though I had no idea what that was, I said I was.  I went in for an interview and was thrilled to get the offer as soon as I reached my doorstep.

Yay, me!  I'd landed my first job.  I was on my way.

I hated my job.

I loved Penguin, don't get me wrong.  My boss was great, the company was great.  But we were understaffed in my department and due to an insane amount of work, were barely making sensitive deadlines on even twelve hour days.  If it weren't for the insane pace, I'd have stuck around.  Between that and the fact that it was my first job had me wondering if maybe I was supposed to be doing something else with my life.

My supervisor, who'd been there since she'd graduated from college, mused aloud every now and again how she'd always been interested in law school herself.  If she didn't have a family, she'd say, she'd have gone to law school or travelled.  Done something else entirely.

I was shelving books one day when Susan Estrich's How to Get into Law School fell on my head.  A sign, I thought.  I read the book from cover to cover and nine months into my first job, handed in my resignation.

I hadn't applied or anything, but those were minor details.  I was going to law school!

That's when things began to get complicated.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Done in by Girl Scout Cookies

I've never paid much attention to Girl Scout cookies or the Girl Scout thing as a whole.  I figured they were a Ya-Ya Sisterhood of sorts, little girls who went traipsing about the forest earning badges for things like tree climbing and fire building.
It's all very hush hush.  What do those girls do out in the wild?  Do they turn feral?  I grew up on horror movies, so my fertile imagination conjures images that surely don't apply (Witchcraft?).   I'm a city girl, what do you expect?

Human sacrifices aside, what I know for certain is that they sell cookies.  Cookies which make the angels weep, or so I'm told.  I have no interest in those puppies--or rather I had no interest.  What made me change my mind?  For that, I have the unwitting Stephanie Perkins and Shana Corey to blame.

Let's backtrack a week:
I'd just read Stephanie Perkins's Anna and the French Kiss and blogged about it.  In the story, Anna is sent to boarding school in Paris and besides meeting the dreamy St. Clair,  something even bigger happens.  For her birthday, she receives Girl Scout cookies!  Anna and her friends indulge in such a cookie orgy (especially with those chocolate peanut-buttery Tagalongs, which I'd never heard of) that my interest was admittedly peaked.

The day after I blogged, I learned that a friend's new picture book, Here Come the Girl Scouts! had just pubbed.
Super editor Shana Corey has written an interesting and informative book about Juliette Gordon Lowe, the founder of the Girl Scouts (Shana even got an email from Gloria Steinem, who was a former Girl Scout herself--way cool).  Girl Scouts tied to feminism?  Huh.  Maybe there was more to them than I thought.  I planned on getting this book asap.

And then the day after that, wouldn't you know it--someone from the office started selling Girl Scout cookies. Talk about a perfect storm.  Was someone out there trying to tell me something?  Juliette Gordan Low, is that you out there?  

So fine, I did it.  I placed my order for six boxes of the darn things (Thin mints, tagalongs, anyone?).  

And that's how I got done in by Girl Scout cookies.  

EDIT: Here Come the Girl Scouts! received a starred review in School Library Journal.  Go, Shana!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Once Upon a Time

I love fairy tales.  I love the originals and I love retellings.  They're the same stories told over and over again, and yet people don't seem to be getting sick of them.  On the contrary, people are demanding more, if pop culture has anything to say about it.  

We have TV shows like Grimm and Once Upon a Time, and two Snow White movie movies to release this year (Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror Mirror).  

Publishing also contributes to the frenzy with books like Malindo Lo's Ash, a lesbian retelling of Cinderella (Read it!)  and Marissa Meyer's Cinder, Cinderella with a sci-fi twist (This one pubbed about a week ago and I still have the unread ARC sitting on my desk, whoops; soon, I promise!) and you better believe there's more to come.

What I particularly love about these reboots? The badass female leads.  As much as I enjoy a good fairy tale where you slay the dragon and give up everything for your true love, more often than not in older versions, men get to do the former and women get saddled with the latter.  Not so with contemporary tales.  We girls can now have our cake and eat it, too.  Instead of wringing our hands, we females can storm the castle and defeat the evil queen ourselves.  Then afterwards we can smooch our Prince Charming silly.

On that note, check out this fan video set to the Marina Diamonds's music called "I Am Not a Princess."

Monday, January 9, 2012

TV, Internet and I have "The Talk"

TV and Internet, you are devilishly charming distractions.  Why do you tempt me with your DVR and amazing blog updates?  TV, when I am about to read or write, why do you insist on enticing me with American Horror Story and Modern Family?  You know I'm weak in the face of Beverly Hills, 90210 and Twilight Zone marathons, yet you persist in seducing me with such sweet nothings.

And you, Internet.  Don't think you're getting off easy.  You're just another version of the devil television, with your Hulu and YouTube clips.  And then there are all the blogs.  Why do you feed my compulsion to follow my favorite authors and read book industry gossip?  What do you have to say for yourself? 

Well I'm onto you.  I was all set to read some YA books from my to-be read bookshelves and you go on and take all my attention.  I'm not even sure how it happened.  One minute I was sitting down with Advanced Reader Copy and then next I was watching Being Erica on Soapnet while checking my email.  

Well, I won't have it.  

I won't.

I will not start watching Downton Abbey or catch up on celebrity gossip.

I'm shutting you both down.  From now on, all your wooing will be for naught.  I am immune to your charms, sirs.

Just like Jody Sawyer in 2001's ballet-licious Center Stage, I spurn you.  Who needs your empty promises?

Wait, what?  Sixteen Candles is on?  Pub Rants has a new blog post?

I can't stay mad at you.

Lucky for you I manage to squeeze in two books a week because of my hour-and-a-half work commute each way.  I've also started blogging again, so I'm beginning to flex my writerly mini-muscles.  See?  And there's always the long Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend anyway.  I can get things done then, right?  

Things will be be different, you say?  You've changed?  Heaven help me, I believe you.  I know you mean what you say.  You will respect my boundaries, won't you?  You'll let me do what needs to be done in peace?  

Good then.  I trust you. 

Until then, I plan on finishing this episode of Dexter.  But after that, that's it!

(No word on the MFA program yet.  Is it bad that I sort of, kind of, maybe almost want a rejection so I don't have to give up my distractions?)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Night with Stephanie Perkins

I stayed up late last night finishing my first Stephanie Perkins novel, which was SO GOOD.  So good that I didn't even mind being sleep deprived today.  It's called Anna and the French Kiss and for all you young adult contemporary romance fans out there, you're missing out if you haven't read this gem.  It's one of the most realistic first love stories out there.  The male lead is beautiful and--dare I say it--nice?  Wait, wait, a love born out of genuine friendship on top of physical attraction?  My mind is officially blown.

Plus, it takes place in romantic Paris! 

Book description on Amazon:

Anna can't wait for her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a good job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she's not too thrilled when her father unexpectedly ships her off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair, the perfect boy. The only problem? He's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her crush back home. Will a year of romantic near-misses end in the French kiss Anna awaits?

Read it!

But hey, don't take my word for it.  John Green named it one of his favorite things, so that's all I have to say about that.  Who can argue with the king of nerdfighters?

I've been following (ahem, lurking around) Stephanie Perkins's blog and she sounds as loveable as her book.  She has a cuteness that's reminiscent of Meg Cabot's blog (another one I, um, stalk), the kind of cuteness that's not annoying, but just right.

Stephanie Perkins, I am now bound and determined to get my book autographed by you.  Fair warning.

I've already ordered the companion novel Lola and the Boy Next Door, which can't arrive soon enough for my liking!  

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

To MFA or Not to MFA, That is the Question

I’ve recently applied to an MFA program in creative writing.
Having said that, I’d like to address the question of whether a master of fine arts is necessary to a successful writing career.  The answer is (drum roll)...Heck, no! 
There are tons of MFA-less writers who are way more successful than most grads could ever hope to be (um, Stephen King, Nora Roberts, JK Rowling, anyone?).  A solid case against the MFA in writing was made by Jennifer Weiner several years back on her blog.  Her stance is basically to "get a job, not an MFA" for the life experience which will inspire creativity.

So why am I possibly getting an MFA, you ask?
Because if I want to get a higher degree and my job will help foot the bill, why not get it in something in which I’m interested?  Plus, it’ll get my butt in gear writing-wise and even allow me to teach creative writing down the line.
I’ve only applied to one program because it’s the only one I could see myself attending.  The program requested the usual materials: application form, 2 letters of rec, academic transcript, critical essay, personal statement, 25-page fiction writing sample—all that good stuff.  It’s all submitted, so until decision day, I get to play the waiting game.  Aren’t I lucky?  Whatever the outcome, I’ve made a promise to continue working on my manuscript and actually, you know, finish it.

The long and short of the MFA debate is, in my opinion, that if you feel you need it to be published, I wouldn’t recommend it.  It’s great for a solid grounding in the writing craft, teaching credentials, and even a contact or two.  At the end of the day, however, all we publishing folk care about it is a good story (and for fiction writing, A FINISHED MANUSCRIPT).

Very official publishing formula, success guaranteed!
Smidgen of talent + Much butt-in-chair action + Much patience and humility + A dash of luck = Published Author

Put all those elements together and all you need is the right pair of eyes to catch sight of your work.  The rest is history.

Music in my head: Sweeney Todd - Stalkerish, but catchy

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Testing 1, 2, 3

I'd started a blog several years ago (if you could call three postings a blog) and promptly abandoned it.  But THIS TIME I'm sticking with it.  Seriously.

I hope.

A little about me: 

  • I'm an assistant in children's publishing at a Big Six house.
  • I love, love, love books (especially children's books, as I'm apparently biased). 
  • I love, love, love movies, music, and all things pop culture (I mean, come on, my blog title is an ode to Superbad).
  • I'm a lurker.  I stalk my favorite author blogs and rarely comment, I have to admit.  I'm working on that, though.  People will be blocking me before they know it!