Friday, May 04, 2007

CEO Interview: Tracy Grand on

"JacketFlap has become the world's largest and most comprehensive resource for information on the children's book industry. Writers, illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, and publishers visit JacketFlap every day." --quoting site.

Tracy Grand, CEO of, on Tracy Grand: "Believe it or not, there are actual natives to Los Angeles. I'm a third generation LA girl, and I grew up in the 70's watching "H.R. Pufnstuf" and reading Judy Blume (author interview). My friends always said my mom was like Carol Brady, as there were always warm chocolate chip cookies waiting for me when I got home from school. I grew up with lemonade stands, tree houses, and in general had a sweet-as-apple pie childhood. After college, I worked at Los Angeles Magazine as an Editorial Assistant, and then I started an Internet PR company in 1994, which was later acquired. I'm married, have two daughters and another daughter due in May (we're stocking up on conditioner). My fourth child, JacketFlap, was conceived in 2005 and born in 2006."

For those new to JacketFlap, could you briefly explain what it is?

JacketFlap is a comprehensive resource of information on the people and companies in the children's book industry. It also provides community features that our members often refer to as the "MySpace of Children's Literature." Thousands of writers, illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, and publishers visit JacketFlap every day.

What are its features?

JacketFlap has what we believe is the world's largest database of information on children's book publishers. At last count, there are more than 10,000 publishers in the database. We also offer a Children's Publishing Blog Reader. Similar in many ways to news aggregators like Bloglines, Google Reader or Live Journal's friends, JacketFlap's Blog Reader lets readers view posts from many blogs on a single page, without having to visit all of the different blog sites individually to check for updates. We also include a blog's comments, and we notify users when there are new posts and comments on the blogs that interest them. Our newest addition is our People feature that brings people together from the children's literature industry in a MySpace-type of environment. This has created a sense of community by connecting people who are spread throughout the world and often feel disconnected from their peers in children's publishing.

What was the initial inspiration for launching JacketFlap?

Like many new moms, when reading books to my kids, I thought, "I've got a great idea for a children's book," as so many great ideas come from being a parent. When I began going through the process of looking for publishers, I realized that there was a great need for an up-to-date searchable resource for researching publishers. With my Internet know-how, I decided to build that resource in the hopes that if I build it, they will come.

How has it changed and grown over the years?

JacketFlap launched a year ago in March of 2006. At that time, we were focused on building a resource for writers and the site's main feature was the children's publishing database. As time went on, we found ourselves visiting dozens of blog web sites and reading hundreds of blog posts daily to keep up on the business. It became clear that there was a need for a focused place to read and search blogs related to children's publishing.

We introduced our Children's Publishing Blog Reader in August of 2006, and that introduced us to hundreds of illustrators, editors, agents, publishers, librarians, and many others in the business. Interacting with these amazingly talented people allowed us to see the need for a place in addition to blogs, where these people could meet and interact in a more visual way. This led us to create our People feature in March of 2007, which provides profile pages for our members that include the ability to see pictures of their JacketFlap Friends (or JFF's), meet new people in the industry, have conversations, feature their artwork and display their books.

What are the unique challenges associated with running the site?

As our database of publishers grew into the thousands, we realized we needed help in keeping the information up-to-date. To address this, we offer Amazon gift certificates as rewards to our members for assisting us in keeping our information current.

How can it be useful to beginning writers?

The searchable database helps writers research publishers that might be interested in their work. If you are an unpublished writer and have written a book about horses, a publisher of religious books may not be for you. JacketFlap lets you research the types of titles a publisher has published and the number of new authors they publish each year. And, with hundreds of daily posts by writers, illustrators, agents, editors, librarians and more, the Blog Reader can provide an incredible amount of insight into the minds of the various people in the industry.

How about to published authors?

Published authors take advantage of our publishing database, they keep up with various blogs, and they participate in our People community. Many published authors and illustrators have told us that they start their morning each day with a cup of coffee and read JacketFlap like their morning paper.

And how about publishers?

For publishers, JacketFlap should help reduce the volume of inappropriately targeted unsolicited manuscripts and letters. Publishers are able to directly edit their contact information and submissions policies. If a publisher is not accepting unsolicited manuscripts or unpublished authors, JacketFlap is a perfect way to let writers know their policies. We also provide a Featured Book section where publishers can advertise their books to our 90,000+ monthly unique visitors.

What's new and exciting at JacketFlap?

Last week we launched an entirely new site design, which we have been told is much easier to navigate and easier on the eyes. We were also just included in Writer's Digest Magazine's 101 Best Web Sites for Writers in 2007.

What are your plans for the future of JacketFlap?

Our plan is to listen to the needs of our growing community and incorporate them into JacketFlap. We will begin publishing a regular newsletter soon featuring content from our website and original articles from some well-known children's literature bloggers.

How about you? What do you do outside of your efforts on the site?


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Author Interview: Laura Bowers on Beauty Shop for Rent

Laura Bowers on Laura Bowers: "I'm a wife, mother of two active boys and I live in a house where baseball season never ends. (Go ahead, ask me the rules on balking!) As a kid, I was a total tomboy who loved everything about horses. As an adult, I've had a lot of job titles: waitress, gym membership salesperson, data entry, telemarketer, real estate agent, receptionist, secretary, and in my broke college days, a roving character in costume at holiday mall parades. In 1998, I made the decision to add my favorite job title: writer. (But dressing in costume was pretty cool, too!)

Could you tell us about your path to publication, any sprints or stumbles along the way?

I've had many, many stumbles and lots of trials and errors! My trials? The time spent trying to write sophisticated books like Sidney Sheldon or epic novels like Jean Auel first comes to mind. That didn't exactly work out. My errors? Thinking I could be the next Dr. Seuss during my picture book phase is one of my many errors. Sprints? The editing process of Beauty Shop for Rent (Harcourt, 2007).

Was there anything during your apprenticeship that you felt was especially helpful? Was there anything you wish you'd skipped?

It's such a blessing to have fantastic writer friends who love and support me. Having someone in your corner is a definite must in this biz! What could I have skipped? The many times I procrastinated instead of writing. But hey, live and learn, right?

Congratulations on the publication of Beauty Shop for Rent (Harcourt, 2007)! Where did you get the initial idea for this book?

For years, I would pass a sign posted in front of a charming old house that read, "Beauty Shop for Rent...fully equipped, inquire within." The rusted corners and the way it started to slant with time intrigued me and I was often tempted to pull up the driveway and find out what the owner was like. Was she old? Longing to retire? When I asked myself what would happen if a young girl was left on her doorstep, I realized the sign wasn't just a curiosity--it was a book!

What was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the major events along the way?

September 2002: Began writing.

Spring 2003: Talked myself out of it and quit.

October 2003: Had an editor tell me she loved the first chapter at a conference. Knew I had to tinkle or get off the pot. Wrote book.

February 2004: Submitted manuscript to editor, found an agent.

May 2004: Editor said no. Darn.

November 2004: Agent submitted to eleven publishers.

May 2005: Was offered contract from Harcourt. Screamed "Hallelujah!"

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?

As you can tell from my timeline, I was sometimes my biggest challenge by the way I'd let those nagging feelings of self-doubt take over. This is when my awesome writer friends would kick in with all their encouragement!

What is it like to be a debut author in 2007? What moments already stand out?

Wow, it's a lot of things. Wonderful, scary, exciting, surreal. I'm also fortunate to be a part of Class of 2k7, a group of mid-grade and young adult authors with books debuting in 2007. It's awesome being surrounded by so many talented writers who are all going through the same wonderful, scary, exciting and surreal experience as me!

What do you love about the writing process and why?

Editing. I love taking that big, fat rough draft and molding it into shape. Most of all, I love those rare and wonderful moments when you finally figure the story out, or when you fall so in love with a new, dynamic character and can't wait to tell their story!

What about do you wish you could skip and why?

Writing the first draft! And, while I do enjoy marketing, it's hard to strike that balance between writing and marketing.

How about publishing? What do you love about it? What do you abhor? And again, in both cases, why?

I loved working with my editor and the folks at Harcourt. They made the whole process relatively painless. Abhor? Waiting for reviews. It's agonizing when you know your book--your baby--is on someone's desk, waiting to be judged!

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

Find a writing buddy who can hold your hand when things are rough, always be true to your unique voice, and take time to celebrate your accomplishments, whether it's finishing a rough draft, getting a contract, having an article published or figuring out the perfect title!

How about those interested in writing for the young adult audience in particular?

Be true to the story and characters, rather than publishing trends.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Ethiopia Reads

From author Jane Kurtz:

"Pennies promise poetry.
Dollars deliver dreams.
A buck can buy a book and books change lives.

"Instead of asking 'a penny for your thoughts,' we're asking you to put your two cents in by donating a dollar to Ethiopia Reads during the month of May help in celebration of our fourth anniversary.

"Ethiopia Reads was founded in May 2003 by Yohannes Gebregiorgis after he realized how much even one book changed his life. Our mission is to develop a reading culture in Ethiopia by connecting children with books.

"Be a part of our efforts to put books into the hands of every Ethiopian child by participating in our give a buck campaign. That same dollar may not travel far here, but just imagine all the stories it can tell in Ethiopia.

"Thank you. Amesegenallo."

For more information: visit See also an interview with Jane Kurtz on the Ethiopian Books for Children and Educational Foundation.

You can donate to Ethiopia Reads and its current and future projects by visiting the website and donating through Paypal. The Paypal button is on the left side of the page. Your donation will be secure and is tax-deductible as allowed by law.

If you prefer you can mail your donation to:
Ethiopia Reads
50 South Steele Street, Suite 325
Denver, Colorado 80209

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Author Interview: Daria Snadowsky on Anatomy of a Boyfriend

Daria Snadowsky on Daria Snadowsky:

Some measure out their lives in "coffee spoons,"

Others in Judy Blumes . . . .

1988: Peter Hatcher from Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing became my first literary boy crush.

1989: Blubber marked the first time my friends and I ever saw the word "bitch" in print. We were so stunned and delighted by this novelty that we kept passing the book around to each other under our desks during class, with the famous "bitch page" doggy-eared.

1990: I polished off Are You There God? It's Me Margaret in two hours, and for me, that event was no less than a religious solemnity. It seemed that the book was "happening to me" as I was reading it. I felt so much more grown-up by the time I reached the last page.

1991: Then Again, Maybe I Won't was my introduction to the adolescent male psyche. I was grateful it explained the mystery of why boys would sometimes bring a book (as coverage) with them to the chalkboard.

1992: There is no way to exaggerate Forever's influence on every aspect of my high school life. (It was also around this time I first watched "The Thorn Birds"--that the Richard Chamberlain character was called "Ralph," a name which figures rather largely in Forever, made him all the more enticing.)

1993: I was too young to read Wifey, but I tore through it anyway. It shattered my fairy tale fantasies of "happily ever after," which is probably a good thing in the long run.

1998: I had the honor of reviewing Summer Sisters for a local magazine. It was wonderful to be able to rave about Blume not just to my friends but also to the general public.

2006: Since I knew I'd be dedicating Anatomy of a Boyfriend (Delacorte, 2007) to Blume, I mailed her a partially-edited version of the manuscript. I didn't expect to hear back since she's so busy, but I did! Last May she emailed me that she read Anatomy, thought it was "so good," and enjoyed it so much she "had trouble putting it down." :-)

What made you decide to write for young readers?

I was still in my early twenties when I started Anatomy of a Boyfriend, so I felt qualified writing for teens since those adolescent years were still fresh in my memory. Oddly enough, a lot of the reader emails I've received lately come from adults who stumbled across the book in Target stores (Target is currently shelving the book in the "Bookmarked Breakout" section, not the young adults section). So maybe the story has a wider appeal than I imagined.

Could you tell us about your path to publication, any sprints or stumbles along the way?

I finished the rough draft in mid-2003, and I began querying agents through Writer's Market shortly thereafter, right as I was beginning law school. An agent accepted me several months down the line and submitted the manuscript to more than a dozen publishers. It was universally rejected--apparently, 599 pages is a bit too long. Instead of ending his representation, my agent graciously allowed me to take my first summer after law school to halve the book's length. It was this new, shorter draft that was bought a few weeks later.

Congratulations on the publication of Anatomy of a Boyfriend (Delacorte, 2007)(excerpt)! What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

Thank you! I remember my first hall meeting during freshman year of college--we were introducing ourselves and discovering that almost half of us had boyfriends from high school. Then by the following semester, almost everyone had dumped or been dumped by her high school sweetheart. So I wanted to focus on that part of a girl's life when she's simultaneously excited for and scared of how college will change things. In the book, Dominique, the protagonist, says, "I used to think of college acceptance letters as emancipation proclamations. Now they're like divorce papers."

I also wanted to do a straightforward, nonjudgmental treatment of the emotional roller coaster of love. I resent that all of the words associated with romantic love are so pejorative. We're often called "nuts," "obsessed," "head over heels," "infatuated," and "addicted."

Why is love saddled with such negative words considering that any one of us, no matter how brainy, sane, or logical, can feel this way? Anatomy of a Boyfriend concerns a girl whose intelligence is above average but still longs uncontrollably for her knight in letterman jacket. Her behaviors may seem crazy, but in truth what she's experiencing couldn't be more natural and human.

Could you briefly describe the story?

Seventeen year old Dominique can't wait to graduate from high school and go pre-med. She's rational and level-headed and never had a serious crush before. However, during winter break of her senior year, she meets shy but dreamy fellow senior Wes. For the first time in her life, all of her priorities become completely reordered, and she finds herself thinking about him every minute of the day, reading into every little thing he says or does, and desiring to be his girlfriend more than she wants to be accepted into her first choice college. This is the story of Dom's emotional and sexual journey through the euphoric highs and hellish lows of first love. It also follows Dom's transition to college as she tries desperately to keep her relationship with Wes intact.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?

The biggest logistical challenge was juggling literary revisions with the rigors of law school. Luckily, I was able to schedule all of my classes on Mondays through Thursdays, so I had three-day weekends to devote to the book.

One of the many aspects of this book that I appreciated was Dominique's smart, sometimes clinical, sometimes vulnerable, always real voice. Could you give us some insights as to how you came to know this character?

Thank you, again! We see Dom before and after she falls under love's life-altering spell, and every emotion she experiences I've endured as well. Before I had ever been in love, I was so impatient with my girlfriends who wouldn't stop "obsessing" over their (ex)boyfriends. I kept telling them, "Just get over him! He's not right for you! How can a smart, sensible girl like you act this pathetically?" Then when I finally fell for a guy, I found myself guilty of everything I had railed against. For the first time ever, I identified with Scarlett O'Hara, Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary and a host of other characters from literature whom I had initially written off as unrealistic, clingy, selfish dopes unworthy of carrying a novel.

So although Dom and I differ in most ways, I understood her plight all too well. I just tried to express it in Dom's uniquely scientific, analytical voice. More than anything, I tried to make her sound honest. That's what I appreciate most about Blume's characters--they are always very straight with the reader about everything they are going through, even if what they're feeling, be it spite, jealousy or hate, isn't all that complimentary.

What is it like, being a debut novelist in 2007?

I'm lucky we have email and MySpace to make direct communication virtually effortless. I feel much more connected to readers and writers than I probably would have ten years ago.

Growing up in the eighties, I rarely sent fan mail to authors because it was too time-consuming to find the address, write out a letter, and schlep it to the post office, especially since there were no assurances that the author would ever receive it, let alone respond. Now I rarely read a book without emailing the author afterwards.

What are some of your favorite recent reads?

Nine Wives by Dan Elish (St. Martin's Griffin, 2005). It's about a thirty-something musician/legal assistant in Manhattan who's raring to get married, but his standards are a tad skewed. It's perfectly written, highly thought-provoking, and totally hilarious. Elish actually spoke to my fifth grade class back in the eighties about his middle-grade book, The Worldwide Dessert Contest. I remember him describing how arduous and frustrating editing can be, and knowing that comforted me during my own revision process.

What do you do when you're not writing?

Praying for "The Wonder Years" to be released on DVD.
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