Sunday, May 30, 2010

I Went to BEA!

Yes, indeed. That IS Gayle Forman, the extraordinarily talented author of gorgeous fiction for young adults. And I met her this past week at BEA in New York City.
She was just one of many authors at Book Expo America. She was there because she was being honored at the Celebration of Bookselling lunch at the Jacob Javits Center on Wednesday. She received an Indies Choice honor award for her young adult novel, IF I STAY (now available in paperback from your local indie bookstore). But she's so modest, she didn't tell me that's why she was there. (That honor would be given about an hour after I took this photo). Nope. She said she was just hanging around!

Most authors were there to sign either ARCs of forthcoming books or hardcover copies of their newest book, including Rick Riordan (which we all now know is pronounced RYE-er-den, not ree-OR-den -- I actually overheard him telling several starstruck booksellers how to pronounce his name correctly. He must get really sick of people mangling his name).

Yes, that Rick Riordan, the author of the mega-selling PERCY JACKSON series. He was there to sign his new book, RED PYRAMID, first volume in the new middle grade series, THE KANE CHRONICLES.

And here's Melissa Marr,
the talented author of my favorite urban fantasy novels, the WICKED LOVELY series, concentrating as she signs a copy of RADIANT SHADOWS (Harper, pub date April 20, 2010). This is actually the third time I've met Melissa, and she's amazingly friendly.

And I now have my very own personalized copy.

This debut author is Inara Scott. She was a lot of fun to talk to. Watch for DELCROIX ACADEMY, Book One: The Candidates, coming in August from Disney/Hyperion.

And here's one of my favorite middle grade authors of all time:
Wendy Mass!

She was super sweet, and after talking to her briefly I felt as if I'd known her forever.
She's the author of FINALLY (which I reviewed here), ELEVEN BIRTHDAYS, and JEREMY FINK AND THE MEANING OF LIFE, among many others.

She was there to sign ARCs of her newest, THE CANDYMAKERS.

Last but not least, here's another debut author:

Kody Keplinger, author of the highly-anticipated YA novel, THE DUFF, coming this fall from Poppy, an imprint of Little, Brown.

I was lucky enough to attend the YA Editors' Buzz panel in the afternoon, and Kody's book was one of the five being touted by the big-name editors.

Isn't she cute? She's only 18 years old!

The other new books being talked about by their editors were PLAIN KATE by Erin Bow (Scholastic), MATCHED by Ally Condie (Dutton/Penguin), INFINITE DAYS by Rebecca Maizel (St. Martin's) and FIRELIGHT by Sophie Jordan (Harper).

Coolest cover?


It's a dystopian fantasy, but Julie Straus-Gabel, Associate Publisher of Dutton, described it as not the kind of world where you're dirty and sweaty and on the run (Hunger Games, ya think?), but a perfect world where everyone is healthy and happy, and everything is arranged, including marriage. Cassia is fine with this, until she falls in love with the wrong guy. Sounds intriguing and I can't wait to read my shiny new ARC.

Probably the most interesting part of the day was talking about books with other booksellers and librarians, and even some very young bloggers. I'm now following Kelsey at The Book Scout, Eleni at La Femme Readers, and Sherry from Flipping Pages For All Ages, simply because they were behind me in Inara Scott's signing line. I turned and asked them out of curiosity how they'd heard of her. These adorable girls are all book reviewers -- and they're even younger than the FNC girls. These three read a lot! I was impressed.

Feeling rather old, I headed for the train at 5:30, loaded down with free books and with my head buzzing from all the noise and excitement. The noise level inside the Javits Center was a little hard to take at times, and Wednesday was one of those 90 degree days, so I was exhausted by the time I got home to Pennsylvania. Come to think of it, I was still exhausted the next day!

Have you heard of or read any of these books? What did you think?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Nobody does it alone, Jack


LOST fans out there will recognize that quote from last night's momentous final episode. I don't watch much television. In fact, I made a conscious decision two years ago to give it up for the sake of the writing, but I allowed myself two exceptions: Jeopardy! (because it's a brain exercise, of course) and Lost.

I had to keep watching Lost. So for six seasons I've been a faithful, if sometimes frustrated, fan. And yes, I will relate this post to children's books because everything, everything, my friend, relates to children's books in the end. That's one goal I've always had with this blog.

Lost was one of the most literate and intelligent TV shows ever created. What other show could include references to Watership Down by Richard Adams, The Stand by Stephen King, Ulysses by James Joyce, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men? Along with numerous other masterpieces by the likes of Shakespeare, Homer, Ayn Rand, Vonnegut, Flannery O'Connor. And of course, let's not forget The Bible.

But, wait! None of those are children's books! Ah...

So this is where we reach the good part. In a recent L.A. Times article, Damon Lindelof, one of the show's creators and producers (along with Carlton Cuse) said:

If one book was most influential on the show, it was probably “Alice in Wonderland.” "To say there is only one is unfair," said Lindelof, "but we keep coming back to 'Alice in Wonderland' thematically. That was a book that both Carlton and I remember very specifically as children. It was a gateway drug to sci-fi and fantasy in many ways."

They also reference the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, and Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time.

So there, my friends, was one good reason to watch Lost.

Here's another. A lesson for aspiring writers of children's books:

Create memorable characters and the audience (i.e., your readers) will go along for the ride, no matter how bumpy or far-fetched the story occasionally seems.

Goodbye, Lost. It's been a fascinating ride.

Anyone else out there a Lost fan? What did you think?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Utter Silence of the Non-Rejection

As a bookseller, I post a lot of book recommendations. And then, on occasion, I've written about brain aneurysms (and also in this rather odd Valentine's Day post -- hey I'm a brain aneurysm survivor; I'm entitled).

But I don't often write about being a struggling writer of children's books. There are a lot of wonderful blogs out there about trying to get published. Read Mike Jung's hilarious blog, for instance, especially if you're interested in writing for middle grades. Or the First Novels Club. Or Frankie Diane's blog. Or Shannon's, if you're writing young adult. For picture book authors, you can't do better than Tara Lazar's blog. And there are others too numerous to mention. Thousands of us are on the same journey and it's a rocky one. Congrats to those, like Frankie and Shannon, who've recently found agents, and to Tara, who not only found an agent but got a contract for her picture book, THE MONSTORE, due in 2012 from Aladdin.

Being an aspiring writer, I've been submitting (mostly picture book) manuscripts to editors over the past few years. I currently have 5 different stories out with 12 different editors. And I've been waiting and hoping to hear something. Anything. Even a rejection letter is better than silence. But there's a disturbing new trend among publishers. What trend is that? The one in which you receive no response at all.




After a few months, you look back at your submissions log and realize, hey, I never heard from them. And if it's more than 3 or 4 months, you realize that means they don't want your manuscript (*sniff*) and that they've recycled it. While I'm all for the green initiative of recycling unwanted paper (and I would actually prefer email submissions -- it's greener and cheaper), I'm dejected by this new trend. There's more closure to receiving an actual rejection. Even a form email rejection would be an improvement.

Here's what one publisher says:

Charlesbridge accepts unsolicited manuscripts submitted exclusively to us for a period of three months. “Exclusive Submission” should be written on all envelopes and cover letters.

Due to the high volume of submissions, we respond only to manuscripts of interest to us.

All other manuscripts will be recycled. If you have not heard back from us after three months, you may assume we do not have a place for your project and submit it elsewhere.

Exclusive is something else that's quickly falling by the wayside. I'm surprised they're still expecting that.

Here's another:
As of January 1, 2007, Penguin Young Readers Group imprints will no longer respond to your unsolicited submission unless interested in publishing it.

And another, from Marshall Cavendish:
Please keep in mind that we receive many unsolicited manuscripts, and that we do read all manuscripts. For this reason, we will not send out a response unless we’re interested in publication. Therefore, if an author has not heard from us within eight to nine months of submitting a manuscript, it means there is no interest. Authors may submit to other publishers simultaneously.

Eight to nine months is unusual. At least they let you submit to other publishers simultaneously.

What do you think about this trend? Have you been dejected by the non-rejection? How do you cope?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sometimes you just need to laugh...

Perhaps everyone at work is in a foul mood. And things are tense at home. To say nothing of the world news -- could it get any worse? At times like this, you need an escape. Have some chocolate and one of those decadent whipped latte frocha things. And settle in with a good read.

Here are two. One for middle grades. One for young adults.

THE POPULARITY PAPERS by Amy Ignatow (Amulet Books, $15.95, pub date April 1, 2010, ages 9 to 12).

Hilarious hijinks of two fifth grade girls who just want to be popular. They observe the popular girls in school to see what makes them tick. Is it their hair? Their cell phones? Their involvement in the school musical? Lydia and Julie record their findings in a journal. And that's what you're reading. It looks EXACTLY the way two fifth-grade girls would write and draw and doodle. If you're looking for something as laugh-out-loud funny as Jeff Kinney's Wimpy Kid books, but need something more girlish, this is for you. Amy Ignatow is a local Philly author/illustrator and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

GIMME A CALL by Sarah Mlynowski (Delacorte Press, $17.99, Pub date April 27, 2010, ages 12 and up).

I don't remember the last time a book gave me such a serious case of the giggles. Gimme A Call is adorable. Of course, there's a serious side to it and the protag learns something (for all you aspiring authors out there -- this is an awesome example of character development). But, really, what a hoot!

Devi Banks is a 17-year-old high school senior. She's gotten into a crappy college, has lost all her friends, and just been dumped by her long-standing boyfriend. Then she drops her cell phone in a fountain. It won't work -- except to call herself at age 14. Once Devi the senior convinces Devi the freshman ("Frosh") she's for real, things get interesting. Frosh, we could get into a good college! We could get our friends back! And don't start going out with Brian. He'll break your heart!

kind of interesting.

Oh, just read it.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Things I wonder about at 3 am....

1) When the posted speed limit is 55, why does everyone drive 71 mph?

2) When you hang your towel back on the rack because the little card in the hotel bathroom cheerfully asks you to help save the environment, why does housekeeping change your towel anyway?

3) When the sign clearly states, "Please Do Not Play With Our Toys," why do so many parents allow their children to hug, suck, drool on, and drag the toys across the floor (without, of course, buying them)?

Can someone please explain this to me?