Friday, February 29, 2008
Before I got there....
1. They talked up JULIA'S KITCHEN and got it circulating.
2. They offered my book for sale.
3. They told the kids that 10 of them would get to have lunch with me. In order to qualify for lunch, they had to purchase my book, read it, and e-mail the media specialist a couple questions they would like to ask me. She chose the kids with the best questions, and she also bought them lunch. How cool is that?
4. They created a lesson plan about character descriptions and worked my presentation about revision into the lesson.
5. They had a display in the library about me, my book, and my upcoming visit.
When I arrived...
1. The administrators in the office greeted me warmly because they were expecting me.
2. The library was set up with enough chairs for all the students and with a digital projector for me.
3. They offered me yummy coffee.
During my presentations...
1. The students paid attention and asked thoughtful questions.
2. The teachers paid attention, took notes, and asked thoughtful questions.
3. They gave me a nice break in between presentations. I even had time to lounge on a sofa and read a bit!
1. They got my lunch order exactly right. (No onions. Yes cucumbers!)
2. The kids and teachers were delightful.
1. The teachers gave me wonderful feedback about the students' responses to the presentation, and they told me they plan to incorporate some of the revision skills I talked about into their lesson plans.
2. They allowed time for me to sign books for all the students and teachers who had purchased them.
3. Camille gave me specific reverse directions so I wouldn't get lost on my way home. (I am directionally-impaired!)
4. And last but certainly not least, they told me they would love for me to come back next year!
Thank you Camille and Prairie Junior High. I wish Camille could give lessons to other schools on how to organize an author visit. Perhaps she should write an article or something. I'm pretty sure this was her first author visit, but you would never know from how well she ran it!
I took a couple of pictures, but for some reason, I can't get them to load right now, and I have to get ready for my weekend writing workshop with Richard Peck. So I'll try to get the pictures up next week.
Have a great weekend!
Monday, February 25, 2008
The Spatulatta Sisters taught me that you just have to be yourself and have fun when you're presenting. These two young girls were so natural and poised. I was impressed.
Kevin Henkes read from his new novel, Bird Lake Moon. I have never been very good at listening to people read aloud. I'm a visual learner, so unfortunately, I wasn't able to fully appreciate his novel excerpts, but I will definitely read it when it comes out.
Richard Peck was incredibly polished. He had the audience in the palm of his hand. Right away I realized I should be taking notes so I could truly take in all the wisdom he had to offer. But I didn't want to miss even one moment of listening in order to find a pen and paper. One thing I do remember is that he said, "Nobody grows up in a group." How true! I remember doing a lot of growing up myself senior year of high school when I suddenly realized I didn't really like my group of friends anymore. There were so many other bits and pieces of wisdom and inspiration. Now it's all a jumble in my head. Note to self: Be prepared to take notes next time!
Luckily there will be a next time very, very soon! I am heading to Champaign this weekend for a writer's retreat, and guess who is leading it? Richard Peck! Yippee!
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Monday, February 18, 2008
First, the Why...
Many people ask if they need an agent to get their children's book published. My short answer is no. After all, I sold my first two novels on my own to a well respected New York City publisher. (Yay FSG!) There are a lot of houses that are open to unsolicited submissions, and if you write a fantastic manuscript and do your research in terms of where to submit it, you could be lucky enough to get published.
But (here's the long answer)... there are also a good number of houses that are closed. That means they won't accept unagented submissions. After spending about four years submitting THE YUCKIEST, DROOLIEST, STINKIEST, BEST VALENTINE'S DAY EVER, I had pretty much run out of the open houses. I considered sending my manuscript to the closed houses with the wild hope that they would read my story even though they said they wouldn't. But common sense prevailed, and I saved my postage. Instead, I figured maybe it was time to find an agent. After all, I had sold two books, and one of them had won a pretty terrific award. I wasn't quite a nobody anymore.
And now for the How...
Deciding which agent to pick was not what you might expect. I didn't spend days researching. I took a short cut. One of my critique partners, Jenny Meyerhoff, had recently signed with Michelle Andelman at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and she was loving her. (Jenny had done lots of research. Thanks, Jenny!) I looked up Michelle, and she seemed like a good fit for me, too. Best of all, she accepted e-mail submissions!
So the very same day I came up with the idea that maybe I should get an agent, I submitted my manuscript to Michelle. And, believe it or not, that very same afternoon, I received a response from Michelle saying she loved my manuscript and was going to share it with her colleagues at ABLA. And the very next day Michelle said the whole team loved my manuscript, and she scheduled a time to phone me to talk about representation!
In an industry that is notorious for moving painstakingly slowly, this fast paced acceptance blew my mind!
Michelle sold my manuscript to Harcourt about six months later. Yay!
Sending love today to Michelle and the whole team at Andrea Brown!!
Friday, February 15, 2008
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Alas, it was not that easy!
I went to the library and my local book store, and I spent quite some time reading all the books on the Valentine's Day display. I found a lot of lovey dovey books, a lot of sweet, tender books, and a lot of lesson books (sending a mean valentine is wrong, kids!). But I didn't find any books that would appeal to a class of sophisticated second graders. With a son and daughter in second grade, I knew almost all these kids well. They weren't about to fall for anything lovey dovey or sweet. And they certainly didn't want anything that would teach them a lesson. So I decided to write my own story, filled with adventure and humor, and with no lesson in sight.
The original title was "The Great Valentine Escape," and in it, Leon chases his valentine onto an airplane, over an ocean, and up a mountain, which turns out to be a volcano. In the end, the valentine jumps into the bubbling lava below (I kid you not) and Leon magically returns home.
It was a crazy story. But it was fun. And the kids were captivated all the way though. (More proof that kids enjoying a story is not reason enough to think it should be published.) They laughed and gasped at all the right parts. I knew I was on to something, even if I still had work to do.
And boy, did I have work to do! Over the next four years, every single thing about the story changed (except for Leon and the Valentine). But now I have a book that will someday be on a Valentine's Day display in book stores around the country. And some random parents or teachers might choose it to read to their class on Valentine's Day. How cool is that?
Sending love out to Faith and Mrs. Phillips' second grade class from 2003!!
Here's how I see it:
Rejection is part of the process. You never hear of an author who gets published without first receiving rejection, so you have to just accept it. In fact, you can celebrate it. You are doing exactly what every author does... submitting work!
I give my rejection letters different grades. There's the form letter that comes back without a signature. I give that kind of rejection a C.
There's the form letter with the one line written at the bottom by the editor, something along the lines of: Thanks! or Cute! That rejection gets a B.
There's the personal rejection letter. That's when the editor actually takes the time to write you a whole letter, telling you what he/she did and didn't like about the manuscript. You should seriously celebrate when you get one of those. That means you are getting very close. You just need to get lucky now! That rejection is an A for sure.
A+ rejections come in three varieties:
1) A request to submit another manuscript. Awesome! That means the editor really likes your writing, but there is just something about this particular manuscript that isn't right for their house. Send something new out today!
2) A phone call rejection. Someone liked your manuscript enough to call you??? Holy cow! Good work.
3) A request to revise and resubmit. That's not really a rejection at all! You are so close, you can practically see your name on the spine of the book. Get to work!!!
Of the 70 or so rejections I received for YUCKIEST, close to thirty were personal rejections, half a dozen were requests for revisions, and one editor actually called to reject me after I did a revision for him that he loved. (More on that later.)
I know that rejections hurt. I know it's hard to wait months, sometimes years, to hear back from publishers. But you have to believe in yourself. Dust yourself off. Take another look at your manuscript to see if you can improve it. And send it out again. YUCKIEST changed dramatically over the years I spent submitting it. It got better and better with each revision, and it finally found a home at Harcourt.
Today I am sending love to all the editors who sent me those personal rejection letters. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to give me your feedback. You helped me improve my story and helped me to keep the faith!
Speaking of Valentine's Day, I guess now is the perfect time to tell you about my forthcoming picture book. It's called THE YUCKIEST, STINKIEST, DROOLIEST, BEST VALENTINE'S DAY EVER, and Harcourt will be publishing it sometime in the near future. (Near future in children's publishing is not actually "near." But I'm not complaining!)
In this story, lovestruck Leon is determined to give his crush a handmade Valentine, but his cynical, wisecracking Valentine comes to life and runs away. It's pretty silly stuff!
Interesting facts about YUCKIEST:
1. I collected over 70 rejections for this manuscript.
2. Leon is modeled after Sammy, and the Valentine is modeled after Jacob.
3. I originally wrote this story for Faith's class Valentine's Day party when she was in second grade.
4. The first time an editor ever called me was to lovingly reject this manuscript.
5. Less than 24 hours after submitting YUCKIEST to Michelle Andelman at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, I received an e-mail from her expressing interest in representing me. About six months later we had an offer from Harcourt to publish it.
In honor of Valentine's Week, I will post more details about each of these facts during the week.
Meanwhile, today I'm sending love to Stacie, one of my readers who sends me terrific e-mails about anything and everything!
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
All three Ferber kids loved this book, and it was the first book they "read" on their own.