Saturday, February 16, 2008

Cynsational Link Update & Spiderwick Movie Reminder

Part three of the interview with Editorial Anonymous is now live at The Longstockings. See also parts one and two.

Visit Editorial Anonymous. Bookmark The Longstockings, and visit The Longstockings at MySpace!

Reminder

It's opening weekend for "The Spiderwick Chronicles" film, based on the book series from Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi! Learn more about The Spiderwick Chronicles, and I'll see you at the theater!

Cynsational News & Links

Erza Jack Keats Foundation Speakheads Support of Programs Implemented by Public School Teachers and Librarians

From the official news release:

"Children need to learn, and they need to love learning. Instilled with a passion for acquiring knowledge for themselves," states Dr. Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, "a child can achieve almost anything.

"It is an inspired educator who can act as the living link between children and the books that can change their lives. It is the imagination of the educator that these grants are designed to support," continued Dr. Pope.

This will be the twenty-first annual call for grant proposals by the EJK Foundation, founded by Ezra Jack Keats, the renowned author and illustrator of such books as The Snowy Day (Viking, 1962) and Whistle for Willie (Viking, 1964). The EJK Foundation has awarded over half a million dollars in grants since the minigrant program was started in 1987,to public schools and libraries in all 50 states and the US Commonwealth.

The deadline for submission of proposals for the $500 Minigrant award is September 15, 2008. Proposals are read directly after the September deadline and announcements will be mailed out in early November. Applications are only available online at the Foundation’s website: [www.Ezra-Jack-Keats.org/programs/minigrantapp.pdf].

Dr. Pope urges educators to wander around the various pages of the EJK website, after printing out their minigrant application, "There is a great deal of information about Ezra on our site. Equally interesting is the background information on the role his books have played in the classroom and in the growing importance of quality picture books for children around the world."

More News & Links

Becky Weinheimer: official site of the author of Converting Kate (Viking, 2007). Includes events, media schedule, teen writing, biography, writer's tips, and more.

A Valentine for Sales Reps from Shelftalker: a Children's Bookseller's Blog at Publisher's Weekly. Source: Editorial Anonymous.

Author Julie Bowie has redesigned her website! Julie's next book is My New Best Friend (Harcourt, 2008).

New Agent Interview: Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary from Alice's CWIM blog. Here's a sneak peek: "If I were an author seeking an agent, I’d be asking these questions: Is this agent well connected? Do they really know the industry? Do they understand a writer's craft--and will they be looking to my long-term interests rather than just making a quick deal?" Learn more about Greenhouse Literary Agency.

Winners of the Jump the Cracks (by Stacy DeKeyser (Flux, March 2008)) autographed ARC giveaway were a YA reader in Florence, South Carolina; and a YA librarian in Corona, California! Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to all who entered! Note: I had a couple of queries about international entries, given the price of postage. No worries! If an international winner is drawn, I'm happy to splurge! Look for more giveaways on Cynsations in the future!

Congratulations to E. Lockhart on the forthcoming release of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Hyperion, 2008)! Read a Cynsations interview with E. Lockhart.

Catching Up With Alaya Dawn Johnson from Coe Booth at The Longstockings. Here's a sneak peek: "There's a certain element of the invisibility of privilege, I suppose. But if nothing else, the more fantasy that's published with non-white characters, the more non-white fans will feel welcome in the genre." Visit The Longstockings at MySpace!

Jenny Han also interviews Editorial Anonymous at The Longstockings. Parts one and two are now available. It looks like part three is still forthcoming. Here's a sneak peek: "...it's not uncommon to have to talk to authors about developing secondary characters' backstory in the author's own head. That backstory isn't going to come out in the text in more than small hints, but it makes a meaningful difference to the author's attitude toward those characters, and that definitely does come through in the text." Visit The Longstockings at MySpace!

Subscribe to Notes from the Horn Book: News About Good Books for Children and Teens! Read a Cynsations interview with Horn Book editor Roger Sutton.

Congratulations to the winners of the 2007 Cybils, and thank you to everyone who worked so hard behind the scenes! Read a Cynsations interview with YA winner Barry Lyga.

Author Varian Johnson signs My Life As a Rhombus (Flux, 2008) at 2 p.m. today at the Barnes & Noble--Round Rock, Texas (La Frontera Village 2701 Parker Road Bldg A Suite 700).

Thanks to everyone who has helped spread the work about the ongoing SCBWI Bologna 2008 series here at Cynsations! Check back Monday and beyond for more insightful question-and-answer interviews with agents, editors, authors, and illustrators about the U.S. and international youth publishing scene.

To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit http://scbwi.org/events.htm and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries? Bologna@SCBWI.org

Friday, February 15, 2008

SCBWI Bologna 2008 Agent Interview: Steven Chudney of The Chudney Agency

After more than fifteen years in book publishing, Steven Chudney founded The Chudney Agency, specializing in children's books. He is based is New York. Anita Loughrey interviewed him November 2007, as one of the speakers at the SCBWI Bologna Conference 2008 (scheduled for March 29 and March 30 in Bologna, Italy).

What made you want to work in children's literature as a literary agent?

SC: I've always loved books, of course, and I had long enjoyed working in children’'s book marketing. For me, it was also a timing issue. I had committed the cardinal sin of resigning from a job without another one already lined up. This was three days before September 11, 2000. Needless to say, all of New York and the world came to a standstill and most NY companies were not hiring for many months.

A wise friend urged me, again, to consider being an agent. In the past, I had dismissed the idea, but in 2001 it seemed like a good plan and I was ready for the challenge. So, I had my letterhead and business cards printed, made some calls, sent out tons of emails, and hung my agency shingle outside my door--The Chudney Agency was born.

My first job was selling paperbacks for Dell Publishing in their small telemarketing department. I have always believed that if I can sell a book over the phone from New York, sight unseen, to a book buyer somewhere in Des Moines or Anchorage, then I can sell just about anything.

Since then I have held various sales and marketing positions at Viking Penguin, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and Simon & Schuster where I was the marketing director for the children's division and then director of licensing development. My last publishing position was with the (now defunct) Winslow Press where I held the position of Senior Director of Marketing, Sales & Subsidiary Rights.

Throughout my career, I have sold and marketed every imaginable type of book: adult and children's, hardcovers, pop-up books, and paperbacks to a variety of sources: wholesalers, independent bookstores, and chain stores. The last ten years of corporate publishing experience was in children's books.

In your opinion, what makes a good agent?

SC: Love of literature, knowledge of the children's publishing industry, tenaciousness, patience, and knowledge of the individual tastes of editors

Do you represent writers and illustrators?

SC: I represent writers and author/illustrators--an individual who both writes and illustrates picture books or novels. I do not represent individuals who only illustrate.

Do you look at art samples?

SC: Yes, from prospective author/illustrator clients.

Do you also represent other publishers or agents abroad? If so, can you tell us which publishers and agents?

SC: I have a reciprocal relationship with the Watson, Little Agency in London. I also represent Ireland's The O'Brien Press here in the U.S., and I represent Marshall Cavendish in the international marketplace.

Do you represent on a project-by-project basis or do you take on the "whole" writer or author/illustrator (i.e., everything they produce)?

SC: I rarely take on a client based only on one project, as I'm interested in folks who have lots of books in them so I can build their careers.

At what point in a manuscript do you "know" you either want to work on the project or not?

SC: It depends, but sometimes I can tell within about 15 to 20 pages--at least about the quality of the writing and voice. With picture books it, of course, takes fewer pages and I also need to love the illustrations.

What does the ideal cover letter say?

SC: The ideal cover letter should be pretty brief (no more than one page, and not in six point typeface!) and tell me a little about the project being submitted--just enough to whet my appetite. A brief and relevant bio about the writer is needed, too.

Don't get too personal. We aren't interested in how friends or family members reacted to your manuscript or an author's hobbies, etc.

What kinds of things "turn you off" a manuscript right away?

SC: Writing that really isn't ready to be submitted, sloppy presentation, and manuscripts that aren't properly formatted. Also, it never is a good idea to submit material not requested by the agent--make sure you send what was requested.

What was the easiest book to sell and why?

SC: I sold a first-time picture book called Sir Ryan's Adventures by Jason Deeble (2009) to Neal Porter at Roaring Brook Press within hours after the editor opened the envelope! A simple case of selecting the right editor for the right manuscript at the right time.

Have you ever represented a book that you loved but couldn't convince an editor to publish? What advice do you give your authors in this situation?

SC: Of course! This happens all the time, unfortunately. Sometimes it just takes a heck of a long time to place a manuscript you love, and sometimes it never finds a home.

I'll continue to work to try to place a novel for as long as I continue to believe in it--and for as long as I can find houses/imprints to send it to. I had a middle grade novel I loved and believed it--and I finally sold it on the eighteenth submission! Other times I'll have a frank conversation with an author, and we'll decide to shelve a challenging novel and work on another--in hopes that one day in the future we'll be able to go back to it.

Are you accepting new clients now?

SC: My submission status changes from time to time, and for the most up-to-date information, please go to my website.

Do you get involved with the marketing aspect of the books you represent?

SC: A little. I do discuss and suggest marketing and promotion plans with my clients, and I hope they are interested in doing as much as they can for their books. At times, I also liaise with the editor/publisher on such concerns, as needed.

Do you give editing and revision requests to your clients?

SC: Absolutely: everything that is submitted by my agency has been revised as many times as needed to strengthen it for acceptance by a publisher.

Do you specialize in any particular genre and/or are you looking for anything in particular at the moment? What are publishers telling you about the market and what they'd like to see?

SC: I handle all literature for children and teens, from young picture books all the way up to teen fiction.

Editors are always looking for wonderful, engaging, well-written books for kids: all age levels and in all genres and categories. At the moment, I feel that the era of big fantasy series being bought for a lot of money has dimmed--I think many were bought as a result of the Harry Potter success. Some performed well, but many didn't fare as well.

So, I think publishers are looking for something other than fantasy, but can still be commercially viable and exciting for kids. I'm seeing some more interest in historical fiction. Subgenres like paranormal and vampire-themed books have emerged as a very strong fiction category.

For a while, teen novels were very hot--at the expense of middle grade novels. I think now we're seeing a bit more demand for the forgotten middle grade category, but I think eventually things will level off, and we'll always have demand for both wonderful middle grade and teen fiction. The picture book market still is pretty soft, and I hope we'll see it turn around in 2008 and beyond.

How many new clients do you take on each year?

SC: This varies from year to year, so it's difficult to say. As I work alone, you can imagine how careful I need to be with my time. I can only take on new clients if I feel I have enough time to devote to all my other clients as well.

Cynsational Notes

Anita Loughrey writes teacher resources and children's non-fiction. Her books have been published by A&C Black, Hopscotch and Brilliant Publications. She also writes regular features for Writers' Forum in the U.K. about authors and the writing industry. She recently interviewed all 31 speakers for 2008's Bologna Conference.

The SCBWI Bologna 2008 interview series is brought to you by the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference in conjunction with Cynsations.

To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit http://scbwi.org/events.htm and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries? Bologna@SCBWI.org

See also a previous Cynsations interview with Steven Chudney.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

SCBWI Bologna 2008 Agent Interview: Tracey Adams of Adams Literary

Tracey Adams is co-founder of Adams Literary, which exclusively represents children's book authors and artists. She founded Adams Literary in the U.S. in 2004. The agency is affiliated to David Higham in the U.K.

Anita Loughrey interviewed her, as one of the speakers at the SCBWI Bologna Conference 2008 (scheduled for March 29 and March 30 in Bologna, Italy).

What is the book or experience that made you want to work in children's literature as a literary agent?

TA: From my years in publishing houses, I learned that I love working directly with authors and artists, and during my early agenting years at Writers House, I discovered the joy of being on the front lines. It is tremendously exciting to me that I'm often the first to read a manuscript, and that it's my responsibility to find just the right home for it. And it doesn't end in the U.S. I love working with our co-agents to bring our books to young readers around the world. I have the most amazing job!

Do you have a background in publishing?

TA: Yes. I was an English major at Mount Holyoke College, and during my college years I interned at Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Greenwillow Books.

After graduation I worked in marketing at William Morrow and then in editorial at Margaret K. McElderry Books.

Before starting my own agency four years ago, I spent ten years at two large New York literary agencies. By the way, my family owned a printing company in New York City for generations, so I grew up visiting the printing presses in SoHo. It's been said that we have ink in our veins.

How did you get your start as an agent?

TA: In editorial, I saw firsthand that agented manuscripts went to the top of the reading pile. This was somewhat mysterious to me, so when a spot opened at Writers House, I took it to explore. It was a great place to really learn all aspects of the agenting side of the business--which is quite different!

In your opinion, what makes a good agent?

TA: The best agents are passionate about children's books, are excellent communicators, good readers, and fair negotiators. An accomplished agent knows that you never burn a bridge, and maintains many strong industry relationships.

Do you represent writers and illustrators?

TA: Yes.

Do you look at art samples?

TA: Yes, though I'm careful to say I'm not a trained artist. I'm a literary agent, and I do not rep art outside the publishing industry, unlike artist representatives.

Do you also represent other publishers or agents abroad? If so, can you tell us which publishers and agents?

TA: We represent U.S. rights for the children's list at David Higham Associates in London.

How many clients do you represent?

TA: Approximately 50.

Do you represent on a project-by-project basis, or do you take on the "whole" writer or the illustrator or even the entire list of a publisher (i.e., everything they produce)?

TA: Our philosophy has always been (and will always be) that we represent authors, not books. We take on a client because we love and believe in their work. That doesn't change book by book, or year by year.

At what point in a manuscript do you "know" you either want to work on the project or not?

TA: If I can easily put down a manuscript, and I'm not thinking about the story while away from it, I know it's not clicking for me. If I don't want to stop reading, if it has me laughing or crying or thrilled, I'm already shopping the manuscript to editors in my head as I read. If I dream about it, I know I need to rep it.

What does the ideal cover letter say?

TA: I throw away anything that says "Dear Sir" immediately. It should be properly addressed, include a one paragraph summary (think flap copy) of the work, and list any professional credentials relevant to children's book publishing. The ideal cover letter shows that the writer has done research on my agency, and perhaps even mentions specific authors we represent.

What kinds of things "turn you off" a manuscript right away?

TA: Of course a picture book should never be illustrated by someone who is not an artist, and a rhyming text needs to rhyme. In novels, I'm turned off by telling rather than showing, whiny main characters, too much directly addressing the reader, and violence and profanity when it's only there for shock value.

From an agent's point of view, what are the "realities" of children's book publishing?

TA: Patience and Fortitude. A manuscript may take time to sell, and when it does sell, there will be a lot of waiting: for the contract, for your advance, edits, another round of edits, galleys, the actual book, reviews, your royalty statements...

Some books will take off immediately, others will slowly find an audience, and others, sadly, don't catch on. Since there is so much uncertainly in this industry, my best advice to authors is to let an agent do the business work for you--the author's job is to do what she is best at: write. Keep writing.

What was the easiest book to sell and why?

TA: The next book by a major award winner and/or a bestselling author! No explanation needed, right?!

Have you ever represented a book that you loved but couldn't convince an editor to publish? What advice do you give your authors in this situation?

TA: Oh, yes! I tell my authors that we haven't yet found the right match. If it's taking a long time to find a home for a book, the client usually will have another manuscript ready to market. We'll put the tricky one on the back burner and start from scratch with the new one--of course we'll first approach anyone who was interested in seeing more of the author's work. We may very well dust off the challenging manuscript down the road!

Are you accepting new clients now?

TA: Always.

Do you get involved with the marketing aspect of the book?

TA: We are in touch with the publisher about marketing plans, we keep the dialogue going, and we communicate clients' wishes. In certain situations, specific things may be discussed prior to acquisition. Adams Literary enjoys promoting our clients' works through our own e-newsletter, website, and rights lists for the Bologna and Frankurt fairs. If a client is interested in additional marketing beyond their publishing house, we can refer them to freelance specialists with whom we are in contact.

Do you give any pre-submission editing and revision requests to your clients?

TA: Because I was in editorial, I value the role of the editor and I will not get in the way editorially. That said, I'm happy to read and offer suggestions before submitting--but with a light hand. I'll do what it takes to help make it the strongest it can be, and the most marketable. I usually will not have taken on a client that isn't going to send me a work that is ready, or almost ready, to submit.

Do you specialize in any particular genre and/or are you looking for anything in particular at the moment?

TA: We specialize in children's--we don't handle any adult books. Within children's, we represent picture books, middle-grade, and teen. We don't handle very much nonfiction. At the moment we are especially eager for middle-grade novels.

What are publishers telling you about the market and what they’d like to see?

TA: The picture book market remains tough. We are being asked mostly for middle grade and chapter books. From our perspective, the market has become more competitive for teen novels in the past year because the shelves are getting crowded.

Cynsational Notes

Anita Loughrey writes teacher resources and children's non-fiction. Her books have been published by A&C Black, Hopscotch and Brilliant Publications. She also writes regular features for Writers' Forum in the U.K. about authors and the writing industry. She recently interviewed all 31 speakers for 2008's Bologna Conference.

The SCBWI Bologna 2008 interview series is brought to you by the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference in conjunction with Cynsations.

To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit http://scbwi.org/events.htm and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries? Bologna@SCBWI.org

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Author Interview: Jane Ann Peddicord on That Special Little Baby

Jane Ann Peddicord's first book, Night Wonders, (a journey through the universe in poetry, pictures, and prose)(Charlesbridge, 2005), won the 2006 International Reading Association Children's Book Award in the category of Primary-Nonfiction [interior spread].

That Special Little Baby, a picture book celebrating baby beginnings and toddler triumphs, illustrated by Meilo So, was released by Harcourt in 2007. Kirkus Reviews cheered, "This joyful testimony to a child's progression is bound to appeal to a pre-schooler's sense of pride in their recent gains." Publishers Weekly declared, "Preschoolers will adore seeing themselves become so mature—and so will their parents."

Jane was a featured author at the 2006 and 2007 Texas Book Festivals. In November 2006, the Austin area Barnes & Noble stores named her their Author of the Month. She currently lives and writes in the hill country near Austin, Texas.

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

The first speaker I heard at the first writer's conference I ever attended, said emphatically, "Don't try to rhyme. You are not Dr. Seuss."

Of course, like many novice picture book writers, I was trying to write in rhyme. I took his warning seriously, but I couldn't do anything else. I was not an English major and had studied the craft only enough to do legal writing, which as everyone knows, is not suitable for children.

So I stumbled on, rhyming everything I wrote—even a story about the Theory of Relativity. But I did take care not to sound like Dr. Seuss.

Finally, I found an editor who liked my verse about traveling through space (Night Wonders (Charlesbridge, 2005)). Oddly enough, she was from the same publishing house as that first nay-saying speaker... Poetic justice?

Congratulations on the release of That Special Little Baby (Harcourt, 2007)! What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

That Special Little Baby was born of pure, postpartum love. Cliché as it sounds, there is no greater joy than watching your newborn breathe and stretch and miraculously smile.

This love affair continues for life, of course, but the initial jubilance eventually recedes into the background of day-to-day life.

I was reminded of those intense early years when we visited some friends who were immersed in the love of their own newborn child. As we drove out of town, I jotted down the first lines of That Special Little Baby. I had only to look at my own young teens in the back seat (at least while they were sleeping) to be transported back to those first, very special years of life.

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

I wrote the initial text in a couple of months, very fast for me. Bringing the book to life took much longer. One tricky element of Special Baby is that it goes back and forth in time. I was lucky that it landed in the hands of a talented editor, Samantha McFerrin, whose vision for the book integrated those transitions seamlessly.

Most challenging for me, being relatively new at this, was making the adaptations necessary to merge the text with the illustrations. But I'm delighted with the outcome and the lush watercolors of Meilo So that seem to carry the reader along on a rising tide of joy and accomplishment.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

After signing Night Wonders, I was lucky enough to get a good agent (Rosemary Stimola; agent interview), and she managed to sell my next text very quickly.

This reinforced the mistaken impression that once I was published, everything I wrote would sell. But subsequent dry spells forced me to consider the truth of what editors often say to deaf ears; it all comes down to the writing.

Of course, there are factors beyond our control, like mercurial market demands. And it's essential to find the right editor, which is where a first-rate agent like Rosemary comes in. But chances are that if a text is good, eventually an editor will take note.

So, what I would tell myself back when I was beginning (and what I do tell myself now that I am more likely to listen) is to write, write, and rewrite until you know in your bones that what you've written is good. Then hope for a little luck.

You have beaten the odds as a new voice in picture books during a tough market swing? What would you say specifically on this topic to aspiring picture book writers?

This sounds obvious, but don't give up! You'll hear statistics about the gazillion submissions an editor receives, and feel that it's hopeless. But it isn't. I'm convinced that the majority of manuscripts clogging editor's IN boxes come from people who give up quickly or don't try to improve their writing. If you keep developing your skills and submitting ever better texts, your chances of success will increase dramatically.

You're one of the several lawyers-turned-children's-authors here in Austin (Ruth Pennebaker, Greg Leitich Smith, Louis Sachar). What did your legal training offer that is useful in your new career?

Well, at its best, the law calls upon you to think on many levels at once and to see life from another person's perspective, both helpful skills in writing for children. And, of course, in both lines of work it's advantageous to be able to evoke a willing suspension of disbelief...

What do you do when you're not writing?

When not writing, I make lunches, fold laundry, pester my son into doing his homework--all the everyday business of family life.

One thing I really like about writing picture books is that I can carry the work around with me inside my head. Whether I'm sitting in traffic or chopping celery, I can think about a line from my current story. It's a lot more interesting than talk radio.

Another thing I like about writing for children is that you can delve deeply into one topic, like outer space, and then move on to something completely different, like babies.

How do you balance your life as a writer with the responsibilities (speaking, promotion, etc.) of being an author?

That is an ongoing challenge. I've made some attempts at promotion, developing bookmarks and a website. I enjoy speaking to children about the content of my books and the writing process, and am happy to speak to other venues about the books, as well.

But I really prefer writing to promoting, and have convinced myself that the best way to achieve recognition for my work is to produce more of it. So I spend most of my work day writing.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I'm finally letting go of rhyme and working on a fairy tale, which is very fun, and a middle grade novel, which may be a lifelong project.

SCBWI Bologna 2008 Series Begins Tomorrow

Reminder: The SCBWI Bologna 2008 series debuts tomorrow at Cynsations! Check back for 32 insightful question-and-answer interview with agents, editors, authors, and illustrators about the U.S. and international youth publishing scene.

To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit http://scbwi.org/events.htm and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries? Bologna@SCBWI.org

Reminder

Enter to win an advance reader copy of Jump the Cracks by Stacy DeKeyser (Flux, March 2008)! Read Stacy's LJ, visit her JacketFlap, and check out her MySpace!

Two autographed ARCs of Jump the Cracks will be given away--one to a teacher/librarian and one to any young adult reader! To enter, email me with your name and address by 10 p.m. CST Feb. 13! Please also type "Jump the Cracks" in the subject line, and indicate whether you are a teacher/librarian or YA reader in the body of the message. Good luck!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Agent Interview: Jennifer Jaeger of Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Jennifer Jaeger is an associate agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Note: scroll here for biographical information.

What inspired you to become a literary agent?

My aunt writes, creates, and produces cartoons and other programming for children, and when I was a teenager, she would have me read scripts and ask me my opinion. This experience sparked an interest in pursuing some type of career in the children's market.

I narrowed it down to publishing. I knew I didn't want to write, but I was curious about editing. I attended a children's writer's conference at a local book store, where two editors and Andrea Brown were speaking. At the time, I had no idea what a literary agent was, but after hearing Andrea, I realized that I wanted to do what she does.

It seemed, and is, a serendipitous combination of my skills and interests--literature, editing, education, and business.

How long have you been in the business? How has it changed?

I began working with Andrea Brown in mid-2004. I can't say I've been in the business long enough to see any major changes, aside from the upswing in the picture book market.

When I first started, picture books were a much harder sell and fewer editors were willing to consider them. I find that this is not necessarily the case any more.

Would you describe yourself as an "editorial agent," one who comments on manuscripts, or one who concentrates more exclusively on publishing issues? Why?

I'd caution to describe myself as one or the other. But I'm definitely an "editorial agent." I've never sent a manuscript to an editor without having worked on revisions with my clients. These revisions typically involve big picture issues, such as plot and subplot, character motivations, etc.

There are so many strong, compelling manuscripts on editors' desks that you don't want to give them any reason to reject yours.

Is your approach more manuscript by manuscript, or do you see yourself as a career builder?

The Andrea Brown Literary Agency, in general, considers itself a career-building agency.

Why should unagented writers consider working with an agent?

Agents aren't for everyone. That being said, many publishing houses are closed to unagented submissions--an agent can open those doors; agents know contracts and what acceptable offers/terms are; they can help you maintain a "clean" relationship with your editor; and agents are your advocates, your sounding boards, your biggest fans, and they're likely to give it to you straight.

In terms of markets (children's, YA, fiction, non-fiction, genres, chapter books, ER, picture books, etc.), what sorts of manuscripts appeal to you?

I'm most interested in fiction from picture books through YA, and I find myself drawn to projects that are literary, commercial-with-heart, and/or funny. I like multicultural, magical realism, paranormal, and reality-based fantasy.

In terms of chapter books through YA, I have a soft spot for stubborn girls who are softies at heart and underdog boys who do something brave. I like stories with emotional depth--ones that make me laugh or cry. I'm a fan of coming of age stories. I'm a big fan of middle grade/tween, and I'm currently interested in acquiring a middle grade boy adventure. Something gritty.

In regards to picture books, I like unique. For example, I recently sold a picture book to Random House (Once Upon a Twice by Denise Doyen) that is a "cautionary tale for mice" written in the nonsense style of Jabberwocky. I also like slight picture books (under 900 words).

There has been much talk about them state of the picture book market. What is your current reading on it? Do you work with author-illustrators and/or illustrators?

I find that the picture book market is picking up, and I've noticed more interest in bilingual (Spanish/English) projects. I do work with author-illustrators, though not many.

Are you accepting unsolicited submissions? What is the best way for a prospective client to get in touch with you?

I do accept unsolicited submissions, and our agency submissions guidelines can be seen on our website.

Do you have any particular submissions preferences or pet peeves?

I prefer submissions via email. My two greatest submissions pet peeves are queries that include no personalized greeting and queries for materials that I do not handle, such as adult literature or gory thrillers.

How much contact do you have with your clients? Emails, phone calls, retreats, listservs? What kind of relationship are you looking to build and why?

I'm in regular contact with my clients, but it really depends on what phase a certain project is in and how the client prefers to work. For instance, I have clients who prefer receiving editorial comments via email and others who like to discuss them.

For the most part, I typically communicate via email, but I call with good news and to discuss contract terms.

I'm looking to build long-term, collaborative relationships with my clients.

One of my clients put it very nicely. She said, "The Agent-Author relationship is a peer relationship with comparative advantages. Hopefully, authors can write better than the agents, and agents can sell better than authors. However, that's not to say an author won't hit upon a great lead for her book or an agent won't have a great idea for her writing. Listen to each other."

That's the kind of relationship I look to build with my clients one in which we trust, respect, and listen to each other. We're partners in this goal of publication.

What are the greatest challenges of being an agent?

Taking a vacation--I'm enamored with my job and have a hard time truly stepping out of that world for extended periods of time--not reading queries, manuscripts, published children's books. And there's always the obvious--waiting and rejections. You have to be patient and tenacious in this business.

What do you love about it?

I love falling in love with a manuscript and getting to represent it. I love pairing up my clients with editors who are enthusiastic about their writing. I love selling projects and negotiating contracts. I love seeing my clients' books on the bookshelves.

Would you like to highlight a few of your clients and/or their recent titles?

A bulk of my clients' projects will be released in 2009, but currently out is The Down to Earth Guide to Global Warming by Laurie David and Cambria Gordon (Orchard/Scholastic). Down to Earth was released in September '07 to starred reviews. I'm so proud of having played a role in in this book.

Mary Peterson, one of my illustrator clients, has two projects out: Wiggle and Waggle by Caroline Arnold (Charlesbridge) and No Time to Nap by Mike Madison (Heyday Books). Mary's illustrations are so lovely and vivid.

Milagros: The Girl From Away by Meg Medina, a magical realism middle grade about a girl who is forced to flee her island home, will be released in the fall (Holt). I can't wait to hold that book in my hands. Meg Medina is a phenomenal talent.

As a reader, which books have you enjoyed lately and why?

Some--but not nearly all--of my most memorable reading experiences (published children's and adult books) include The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman (laugh-out-loud funny and touching); Catherine, Called Birdy and The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman (just the type of female characters I love); the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer (I've never had so much fun reading a series before!)(author interview); Crank by Ellen Hopkins (heartbreaking); Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (an all around brilliant book); The Known World by Edward P. Jones (complex and genius); and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins (I almost ditched town and became a cowgirl).

Cynsational News, Links & Giveaway

Enter to win an advance reader copy of Jump the Cracks by Stacy DeKeyser (Flux, March 2008)! From the promotional copy: "Angry that her dad (once again) fails to be at the train station when she arrives in New York City, fifteen-year-old Victoria has had it with her divorced parents and their broken promises. Earlier on the train ride, Victoria witnesses some rough treatment towards a little two-year-old boy. Victoria then watches as his teen mom stashes her son in the bathroom and exits the train. When Victoria spots the mom arguing with a guy over what appears to be drug money, she makes a split-second decision. She boards the next train out, taking the toddler with her. Victoria's determined not to let this kid fall through the cracks, so she resolves to stay on the run until everyone responsible starts keeping their promises. Jump the Cracks is a fast-paced thriller whose action revolves around a frustrated but strong-willed teen girl who finds herself as both rescuer and abductor of a child at risk."

Read Stacy's LJ, visit her JacketFlap, and check out her MySpace!

Two autographed ARCs of Jump the Cracks will be given away--one to a teacher/librarian and one to any young adult reader! To enter, email me with your name and address by 10 p.m. CST Feb. 13! Please also type "Jump the Cracks" in the subject line, and indicate whether you are a teacher/librarian or YA reader in the body of the message. Good luck!

Note: winners of the the recent Cynsations giveaway of Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (Razorbill, 2007)(excerpt) were YA readers in Palm Desert, California; Australia; Miami; and Granite City, Illinois.

Congratulations to the winners! Thanks to Razorbill for donating the books! Read a Cynsations round-table interview with the Razorbill editors.

Read Richelle's LJ (Even Redheads Get the Blues).

More News & Links

Writers Interviewing Writers: a new blog from Kendra Saunders featuring interviews between writers in different genres, in different fields. According the debut post, "We'll feature song writers, YA novelists, writers of fantastical short stories, fan fiction gurus, PR specialists and heroes of the role playing realms, among other things." If you would like to be a featured writer--or would like to interview a fellow writer--for the blog, please contact Kendra by leaving a message at this post! Note: Kendra is the "author of the award winning The South Crawley Kids (Runner Up in the YA category of the 2007 Writers' Digest Book Awards)."

What's Fresh with Micol Ostow! from YA Fresh. Visit Micol, and her her LJ, First Person Present, which is one of my favorite blog names.

What Does a Career in Writing Look Like? from Darcy Pattison's Revision Notes. Source: Janni Lee Simmer.

Blurb Etiquette by Justine Larbalestier. Read a Cynsations interview with Justine.

Author Name Pronunciation Guide from TeachingBooks.net. Wondering how to pronounce my name or lots of others? Find out! Source: BookMoot.

Interview with Mitali Perkins from Teen Book Review. Here's a sneak peek: "Many of my stories are about feeling displaced, rootless, and like an alien, emotions that have defined me most of my life. Also, I’ve seen a lot of poverty in my global travels, so I write about that, too." Read Mitali's blog.

Review Survival: It Can Be Done! from Jo Knowles. Read a Cynsations interview with Jo. Visit Jo at MySpace!

Congratulations to Kerry Madden on the upcoming Valentine's Day release of Jessie's Mountain (Viking, 2008)! From the promotional copy: "Can something that's so awful wrong have shiny bright bits of right to it? It's slowly dawning on twelve-year-old Livy Two Weems that not every decision in life falls neatly into categories of right or wrong—and the harder the decision is the blurrier the lines get. It's winter 1963, and just about every member of the large Weems family has a decision to make. Should Livy Two run off to Nashville to audition for that music man? Is Daddy finally ready to play his banjo again? Should the kids be secretly reading Mama’s girlhood diary? And worst of all: will Mama make them move away from their beloved Maggie Valley home? Even strong-willed Livy Two is overwhelmed by so many looming choices, but she’s as determined as ever to make her family’s dreams come true. That stubborn determination inspires all of the Weems—and leads to a tender and satisfying conclusion to Kerry Madden's Maggie Valley stories." Read Cynsations interviews with Kerry on Gentle's Holler and Louisiana's Song. See Kerry's LJ for information on the "Book Giveaway, Old School Picture Contest!" Visit Kerry's MySpace page.

The Holocaust in Teen Fiction: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and The Book Thief By Susan Whelan from Suite 101.com.

Children's Book Insider is now at MySpace! "Since May of 1990, aspiring children's writers from across the globe have turned to Children's Book Insider for advice, inside info and market tips that have helped make their dreams of writing a children's book into a reality."

Writing for the Educational Market: "a discussion and resource for freelance writing and working for the education market" from Laura Coulter.

Austin SCBWI offers a great line-up for its April 26 conference. Speakers include: author and editor Deborah Noyes Wayshak from Candlewick Press (author-editor interview); Alvina Ling from Little Brown (personal blog); agent Erin Murphy (interview from Olswanger.com)(interview by Pam Mingle from Kite Tales, Rocky Mountain chapter, SCBWI); artist's agent Christina Tugeau; and writing professor Peter Jacobi. See details at Austin SCBWI.

An Interview with Amy Goldman Koss from Little Willow at Slayground. Here's a sneak peek: "I think we careen in and out of countless cliques between the cradle to grave, and the stings and squirms that go with social life and relationships are a life long phenomenon. Grown women can feel just as snubbed by other PTA moms as their daughters can by snotty classmates."

Spooky blue ribbon books from The Bulletin of the Center of Children's Books include Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt (Front Street, 2006) and Prom Dates from Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore (Delacorte, 2007). See the whole list! Read a Cynsations interview with Rosemary.

The SCBWI Bologna 2008 series debuts Feb. 14 at Cynsations! Mark your calendar for 32 insightful question-and-answer interviews with agents, editors, authors, and illustrators about the U.S. and international youth publishing scene. To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit http://scbwi.org/events.htm and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries? Bologna@SCBWI.org

Young Adult author Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban: official author site features biography, about the book, about the worlds in Two Moon Princess, quiz, sequel information, etc. Carmen's tween novel is Two Moon Princess (Tanglewood, 2007)(PDF file excerpt).

Tea Time at Annick Press: a new blog from "a small, independent publisher of books for kids and young adults." Based in Toronto, Vancouver, New York. See also the Annick Press official publisher site.

30 Days to Stronger Characters: a helpful series for writers from Darcy Pattison at Revision Notes. Read a Cynsations interview with Darcy.

Remember my recent post on Spookycyn and Cynsations LJ about authors Varian Johnson, Suzanne Crowley, and Suzanne Harper? See also Varian's own post on his SCBWI event.

More Personally

Thanks to Prof. Stiles and her Young Adult Literature class at Concordia University in Austin for their hospitality and wonderful questions last night. It was a great honor to visit with author April Lurie and discuss our own books and the field more globally. Read a Cynsations interview with April. Visit April's blog and her MySpace page!

Cynthia Leitich Smith on Fantasy, YA, and Vampires from Writers Interviewing Writers. Here's a sneak peek: "You can write with less subtlety because that fantasy layer already gives the reader enough distance to see more clearly. Say you're talking about a hero feeling as if she's on verge of damnation. In a fantasy novel, you can go ahead and show the literal gates of hell."

Listening Library's audio production of Tantalize goes on sale Feb. 26! Actress Kim Mai Guest is reading the book. Listen to an audio excerpt.

Learn more about the text novel from Candlewick Press.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Author Interview: Rosemary Clement-Moore on Prom Dates from Hell

Rosemary Clement-Moore on Rosemary Clement-Moore: "Rosemary Clement-Moore is the author of smart, funny supernatural mystery novels. The first in a series about a psychic girl detective, Prom Dates From Hell, is available now from Random House/Delacorte Press (2006), and the second, Hell Week, comes out this summer. Her eclectic resume includes jobs as a telephone operator, Chuck E. Cheese costumed character, ranch hand, dog groomer, wedding singer, hair model, actress, stage-hand, director, and playwright. She now writes full time, which allows her to work in her pajamas and break every afternoon to play Guitar Hero." Note: Rosemary is a graduate of Texas Christian University and makes her home in Arlington, Texas. Visit Rosemary's LJ and MySpace page!

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

I was a voracious reader as a kid, and I can't remember a time in my life when I wasn't scribbling stories or writing plays. How I ended up with a master's degree in science is a long story. I worked at various jobs--a real odd mix, actually--and wrote as a "hobby." I scribbled stories and started a lot of novels, but when I came to actually following through and finished a book length project...let's just say I had commitment issues.

Plus, I had a creative outlet because I worked in a theatre. Writing and directing taught me a lot about storytelling, pacing, and dialogue. But it also filled that need to tell a story, and sidetracked me from the work of writing a novel.

Anyway. I quit my job to take care of my dad while he was ill, and after he passed away, I decided to get back on the writing track. I joined a writers' group and started to think like a professional writer. I gave myself to the end of the summer to write as my full-time job, and by Labor Day I had a manuscript. Then the book sold by Thanksgiving.

So I guess you can say I had a lot of training, and stretching, and finding my stride. Then when I finally got my rear end on the track, it was definitely a sprint.

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

I don't regret any of the time I spent "sidetracked" from my goal. Education is never wasted, and I used those science degrees all the time. I worked with teens, so that gave me an ear for the YA voice. There's huge crossover of writing and acting skills, only with writing you don't have to stay on a diet. And the whole time I was always writing, always reading, and building skills I would use to (eventually!) write my novels.

Sometimes I think if I'd gotten my rear in gear earlier, imagine where I could be by now. Maybe I'd be one of those people published at 19 or 20. But maybe not. The sum of my experiences--not just the unfinished books, or the plays or the short stories, but the schooling and the years I lived on a ranch, and the time I spent caring for my dad--made me the person who was finally able to finish a novel at all.

Congratulations on the publication of Prom Dates from Hell (Delacorte, 2007)! Where did you get the initial idea for this book?

I had been chewing on what I love in books and movies, particularly the idea that all this mundane stuff that happens all the time (like the ridiculous excesses of the prom) can have a supernatural origin or resonance. My subconscious must have been working on that, because I woke up with in the middle of the night with the first scene in my head, and scribbled down about five pages of the first chapter. Only, I did it without my glasses, so in the morning, I couldn't read much of what I'd written. Fortunately, I remembered enough to reconstruct it. I still have those scribbles, and the first paragraph, as published, is nearly verbatim to what I scrawled in the dark that night.

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

That was the spark. I had only recently joined an excellent critique group and had planned to read something from one of my many started novels. But I read the first chapter of the middle-of-the-night book instead. After the meeting, this ferocious woman came up to me and said that if I didn't finish that book she was going to kick my butt. I was terrified of her.

The woman was Candace Havens, author of grown up chick lit fantasy novels, and she has become one of my dearest friends. She's not really at all scary, but I did need a kick in the pants. I had to stop thinking like a hobbyist and apply the drive I'd put into any other "real" job (I'd had enough of them!) into writing. I finished the book in six weeks, took another six weeks to revise it, and sent my first query letter out the first of September.

I conducted my agent search like a tactical campaign, and by the beginning of October, I had representation from a stellar agent who'd been at the top of my list. She asked me for a few minor revisions, and I stayed up for three days straight knocking those out. The manuscript went out, garnered a couple of quick rejections, and then a couple (!!) of offers. It sold by the middle of November. (Which shows the major advantage of having an agent: good or bad, it can make things go more quickly.)

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

I was working on my "vintage" iBook--the first clamshell ones, with the colored edges. It was already old and cranky, but in the course of writing the book, the "i," the "e," and the delete key stopped working. Which was a problem, because the book was in first person.

I hooked up an external keyboard and kept going. Whenever the document would get too big, the computer would crash, so I had to start each chapter in a new document, and I could never have more than two open at a time. When I started the revision, the trackpad gave up the ghost, so I had to attach a mouse, too. Then I had to take all those things off to back up my files, because the computer only had one USB port, and I needed that for the external floppy disc drive. (A flash drive wouldn't fit in the port.) It was a challenge to even find floppy discs anymore!

What was it like to be a debut author in 2007? What moments stood out?

Seeing the book on the shelf is surreal. Sometimes I'll run across it unexpectedly, and I think: Hmmm, that cover looks really familiar. Oh yeah! It's mine!

Even better is when you catch someone actually buying the book. I was in the café at Barnes and Noble and a girl was going to the counter with her mother, book in hand, to buy it when they got their snack. I asked if she would like me to sign it for her, and she didn’t believe I was the author. She squinted at the jacket photo, peered at me, then squealed, "Oh my gosh! You really wrote this book!" I felt like such a celebrity.

Are you doing anything special to promote your work?

I wish I was better at publicity. I'd like to do a new website for the paperback release of Prom Dates From Hell. It's got a brand new cover, which I love, and a series title. Maggie Quinn: Girl versus Evil. The second book, Hell Week, comes out in August 08.

What do you love about the writing process and why?

I love getting to be anyone I want for the length of the book. Journalist, astronaut, archaeologist. It's the ultimate role-playing game, or like getting to perform every role in a play. And I adore doing research. The weirder the subject, the better. Perfect for someone who couldn't decide what to study in school.

What about do you wish you could skip and why?

I hate all the second guessing that I do when it comes to the nitty-gritty details of the plot. I like mapping out the destination, but not really the right turn left turn stuff. Should this section go this way or that way? What's the best order in which to reveal this information? Should I have that fight scene in chapter 15 or after the chase scene?

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

One thing I have to reconcile is the fact that there is so much that you, as the author, cannot control. Marketing, distribution, competition, trends and fads... The only thing that is totally in your hands is the product. You write good books, and hope that the rest takes care of itself.

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

Keep three journals:

One to record your thoughts and senses and emotions as you go through different experiences; these are things you'll want to bring into your writing, to give it authenticity and depth.

Two, keep a writing journal, where you experiment with different styles or voices. Do writing exercises often, either with prompts (like an assignment to write a certain way) or just free writing (writing whatever comes to your mind for 10-20 minutes without stopping).

And last, keep an idea journal, where you record random things that strike you as interesting. It may be observations about the couple you see leaving each other in the airport, or snatches of dialogue you think are funny or touching. "What if?" questions, and intriguing trivia that you run across. These things can spark all kinds of story ideas.

Inspiration doesn't come from the blue; it comes from all the things you experience and store in your head, without realizing it. A journal gives you a way to flip back through and access those things.

And when you're ready to get serious about writing for publication, remember that you have to start working like a professional, even if you haven't sold anything yet. That means writing every day, and holding yourself accountable for your product. Find a support group--it's easier that way.

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

An authentic voice is one of the most critical things in a YA book. You have to really get into character as a teen and write from that place, not from the perspective of an adult writing what you think a teen would sound like. Find your inner teen; remember what it was like to feel like you had your whole life, endless possibilities, in front of you. Fads and slang will change, but certain things never will. Find those things and ground your viewpoint there.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

Thank you for interviewing me in your blog. One thing I do love about publishing and authors is the support and camaraderie of awesome folks like yourself!

Marly's Ghost by David Levithan, illustrated by Brian Selznick

Until very recently, my favorite book of all time was the 1959 Newbery Medal book, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (Houghton Mifflin, 1958). I still love it, and I will always love it.

But now, I have a new favorite: Marly's Ghost by David Levithan, illustrated by Brian Selznick (Dial, 2005). I first read the novel some months ago and have been waiting impatiently until just before Valentine's Day to highlight it.

From the promotional copy: "When Ben’s girlfriend, Marly, dies, he feels his life is over. What could possibly matter now when Marly is gone? So when Valentine's Day approaches, it makes sense that this day that was once so meaningful to Ben leaves him feeling bitter and hollow. But then Marly shows up—or at least her ghost does--along with three others spirits. Now Ben must take a painful journey through Valentine's Days past, present, and future, and what he discovers will change him forever."

I read so many wonderful books. What is it about this novel? What for me puts it above the rest?

It's always a deeply personal equation--what the reader brings to the story, what the story brings to the reader.

I appreciate a great ghost story. I also love contemporary retellings of classics. I am oddly enchanted by Dickens in general and A Christmas Carol (1843) in particular. And I'm an optimistic romantic.

David's writing is top notch, his "remix" approach is delightful, and Brian's illustrations are a reminder of why he is one of our most acclaimed illustrators.

But more specifically, David has somehow evoked for me what love is and magically translated it into story. The result is healing, inspiring, and, yes, a little bit spooky.

Happy (Almost) Valentine's Day!

Cynsational Notes


The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (Houghton Mifflin, 1958). From the promotional copy: "Kit Tyler is marked by suspicion and disapproval from the moment she arrives on the unfamiliar shores of colonial Connecticut in 1867. Alone and desperate, she has been forced to leave her beloved home on the island of Barbados and join a family she has never met. Torn between her quest for belonging and her desire to be true to herself, Kit struggles to survive in a hostile place. Just when it seems she must give up, she finds a kindred spirit. But Kit's friendship with Hannah Tupper, believed by the colonists to be a witch, proves more taboo than she could have imagined and ultimately forces Kit to choose between her heart and her duty. Elizabeth George Speare's Newbery Award-winning novel portrays a heroine whom readers will admire for her unwavering sense of truth as well as her infinite capacity to love."

Indian Teacher & Education Personnel Program Resource Center Seeks Support

From: Marlette Grant-Jackson
Indian Teacher & Education Personnel Program
Curriculum Resource Center Coordinator
Humboldt State University:

"In this time of severe budget cuts, the Indian Teacher & Education Personnel Program (ITEPP) Curriculum Resource Center (CRC) [at Humboldt State University (HSU)] is reaching out to its community. Our book, video and subscription budget has dwindled to practically nothing, yet our wish list continues to grow with brand new titles each semester. The CRC serves over 1150 patrons and has over 6000 materials available for use by the general and HSU campus communities. We would be honored to receive your patronage and donations.

"Giving is easy. You could:
Gift a subscription to the CRC in a graduate's name.
Donate books and or video from your personal collection.
Purchase a book online from our wish list Amazon.com.

"See your name added to the ITEPP-CRC Sponsors page in the ITEPP web site. All donations to the CRC are tax deductible."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Author Interview: Bruce Hale on the Underwhere series

We last visited with you in September of 2005. Can you share with us the highlights of your writing life since?

Let's see...one cool thing: I won the Little d Award for Humor Writing, for Murder, My Tweet (Harcourt, 2004). I've come out with three more Chet Gecko mysteries, and I've branched into writing fractured fairy-tale picture books (Snoring Beauty and Pooch in Boots, both coming from Harcourt). Those two books are being illustrated by someone other than me--a new experience.

Congratulations on the upcoming release of the Underwhere series, illustrated by Shane Hillman (HarperCollins, 2007-)! Could you tell us what it's about?

The Underwhere series has been my other new project. It's half graphic novel, half regular novel, written for 7-12 year-old readers. It's about three kids and their cat who discover a strange world beneath ours, full of midget dinosaurs, zombies, and an evil UnderLord who wants to take over our planet. The kids try to stop him.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this series?

I had two inspirations: 1) my lifelong love of comics (I actually started out as a cartoonist); and 2) the old Pellucidar novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, about a world at the center of our world.

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

This one took a long time to gestate. I actually had the idea back in 2004 and sold the series to HarperCollins. The first book took over a year to write and revise, as we were figuring out the world, learning how to write this new form, and choosing an illustrator. Since then, each book has taken at least six months, but they're getting quicker.

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

The biggest challenge was in learning to write succinctly for the graphic novel sections. My editor and I had to ruthlessly hack out jokes and dialog to make it lean and mean. Because I hadn't done a comic book before, I didn't expect how much space it would take to bring the action to life.

What about this format appeals to you?

It's fun to switch gears and use a different kind of a storytelling--almost like writing a film script.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

I'd tell me to be persistent and not get discouraged so easily. I'd encourage me to educated myself more by attending conferences and reading books. I'd also tell me to buy Apple stock when it first went public.

What would you say specifically on the topic of writing humor?

I've pretty much learned by doing, but if I had it to do over, I'd study the craft of humor--especially stand-up comedians.

How have your writing abilities developed over time?

I've become a more economical writer, using fewer words to express ideas. I've also become looser, more forgiving of my crappy first drafts--knowing that I improve in revision.

What do you do when you're not writing?

I read a lot, surf, hike, go to the movies, go bicycling, travel, speak, sing, and play music.

How do you balance your life as a writer with the responsibilities (speaking, promotion, etc.) of being an author?

Not very well, at the moment. I had a crazy fall, packed with lots of speaking and travel, and I fell behind on my writing. When I'm "on" my game, I leave blocks of time at home for working on first drafts, then schedule my travel during revision time.

What can your fans look forward to next?

After finishing the six Underwhere books, I plan to start work on a longer fantasy story--either middle-grade or YA, I'm not sure yet. I'd like to write something longer, something that's more emotion-based, but still humorous.
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