A Goodbye

My grandfather, Philip Anthony Sadler, passed away on December 25. He served for nearly thirty years as a professor of children's literature at the University of Central Missouri, where he founded and for all those years ran their Children's Literature Festival, which remains one of the largest such events in the United States. He had been sick in various ways -- a stroke, lymphoma, heart trouble -- for years, but none of the illnesses ever dampened his mind or his spirit, and we were fortunate to be able to see him right before Christmas, when he died in peace. He is survived by my mother, his daughter, Becky Klein, and her husband Alan; his daughter-in-law, Leslie Hart, and her husband Jon; my sister, Melissa Jackson, and her husband Joe; my cousins Diana Sadler and Bruce Sadler; many dear friends, especially Floyd and Susan Pentlin, Naomi Williamson, and many authors; three brothers, Graham, Milton, and Paul Sadler, and their wives; and my boyfriend James, and me. He was eighty years old.

Those are the facts; and we are left with the feelings that accompany them, the simultaneous lack and multiplicity of connection that signify death. The lack is in the absence, the knowledge that he is no longer there, at the other end of a phone line or e-mail, loving oysters, Jessica Fletcher, and good books; wearing his grandpa sweaters; complaining about modern-dress productions at the Kansas City Lyric Opera -- for me specifically, that he will not be at ALA Midwinter in Boston in three weeks, moving determinedly through the exhibition halls on his cane. And then the multiplicity is in the connections that we try (or I try) to fill that absence with: that a piece of pecan pie at Marie Callender's can stop me for a moment, make me think how much he loved it; that a side remark in a conversation can touch off the story he told often and all his grandchildren can recite by heart, climaxing with "Mizz Sadler, your boys are talkin' nasty!" in a full Southern accent. Those memories, our knowledge of how well he died, saying goodbye, all of that, cannot compensate for the the hole in our worlds right now; and I imagine there might always be a Papa-shaped space in my life, as I can still feel out the edges of a Grandma-shaped space some days. But we go on around those edges, living the lives we've made by being the people they made of us.

This is especially true for me, because I owe my entire present life as a children's book editor in New York to my grandfather. He gave me his review copies of children's books for years and years, so I never stopped reading them, even when I had long supposedly outgrown them. He introduced me to the world of book people through the Festival -- that there were authors who made these books, that they were consciously grown and shaped. He unconsciously taught me to associate the literary life with culture and travel and cosmopolitanism, so that when I was ten or twelve years old, my great goal in life was to be a children's literature professor just like him. He knew how appreciative I was of these gifts, I'm glad to say, and knew also the one way I could think of to repay him: My book, when it appears next year, will be dedicated to him and my grandmother. For now, I'm still so grateful for my life, the family he helped create and bring together, his presence with us for so many years, the books, always; and the best I can do is to do well by them.

Goodbye, Papa, and love, and thank you.

The Brooklyn Arden 2009 Holiday Gift Guide

AKA, all my 2009 books and a few other favorite things. To wit:

Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee. Coedited by Arthur and me. CYBIL nominee.

Perfect for: YA readers; fans of hair dye or tacos; anyone who has ever worked a fast-food job; anyone with a crazy mother or charming best friend; people who like a mix of the funny and the bittersweet (that is, if you like laughing or crying); residents of Los Angeles, California.

Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally) by Lisa Yee, illustrated by Dan Santat. Coedited by Arthur and me. Starred review in The Horn Book. New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing.

Perfect for: Boys; girls; particularly the seven- to nine-year-old members of both genders; anyone who has ever felt puzzled by the behavior of a person of the other gender; people who like donuts.

The Circle of Gold (The Book of Time III), by Guillaume Prevost, translated by William Rodarmor.

Perfect for: Fans of time travel novels, literature in translation, or the first two books in the series.

Heartsinger by Karlijn Stoffels, translated by Laura Watkinson. Two starred reviews.

Perfect for: People who like fairy-tale flavoring in their stories; people who are thoughtful about love; people interested in unconventional novel structures; fans of translated literature, character profiles, magic realism, and the Dutch.

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. Five starred reviews; Booklist Editors' Choice; Kirkus Best Book for YA; Horn Book Fanfare List; School Library Journal Best Book of the Year; Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year; New York Times Notable Book for Children; Washington Post Notable Book.

Perfect for: People interested in Asperger's syndrome, lawyers, how religion can affect everyday life, moral dilemmas, wonderful characters.

Moribito II; Guardian of the Darkness, by Nahoko Uehashi, translated by Cathy Hirano. Starred review in Publishers Weekly; USBBY Outstanding International Book.

Perfect for: Fans of fantasy, awesome female characters, martial arts movies, Japan, fascinating settings, literature in translation, or the first book, which was equally terrific and won the Mildred L. Batchelder Award for Translation.

Operation Yes, by Sara Lewis Holmes. Starred review in Booklist.

Perfect for: military families; rambunctious kids who get in trouble; kids interested in art or theater; precise kids who like to plan; teachers; people who take improv; people who love innovative, risk-taking children's literature,

The Snow Day by Komako Sakai. Four starred reviews; New York Times Best Illustrated Book; USBBY Outstanding International Book.

Perfect for: Fans of literature in translation; children with parents who travel a lot; anyone who longs for the peace and joy of a snowy day.

Wishworks, Inc. by Stephanie S. Tolan, illustrated by Amy June Bates. New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing.

Perfect for: People who like dogs; people who want a dog; fans of quality and charming chapter books.


And things I had nothing to do with creating but I loved in 2009 and recommend highly:

Adult books: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers; The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates; Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer; The Learners by Chip Kidd; The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Get Pregnant by Dan Savage.

YA novels: How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, an underappreciated gem about a girl and a boy who don't fall in love; Destroy All Cars by Blake Nelson, an even less appreciated gem about a girl and a boy who were once in love, with each other and with the environment, and have to figure out the complications of each fading away; The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp, the most spectacular feat of voice I read this year.

Middle-grade novels: Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis; Alec Flint: The Ransom Note Blues by Jill Santopolo; When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.

Movies: Up in the Air; District 9; Star Trek; Bright Star; (500) Days of Summer

Things: A DVR; a wireless mouse; and my Good Grips vegetable peeler, the single best household investment I have made in many a moon.


Happy holidays!

More Flap Copy Shenanigans

So I was browsing books to give for Christmas presents today (at my local independent bookstore, and I hope you all are shopping at yours), and I saw the quite-lovely cover of Little Bee, an adult novel by Chris Cleave. And look at this flap copy!:
We don't want to tell you WHAT HAPPENS in this book.

It is a truly SPECIAL STORY and we don't want to spoil it.

NEVERTHELESS, you need to know enough to buy it, so we will just say this:

THIS IS THE STORY OF TWO WOMEN. Their lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice, the kind of choice we hope you never have to face. Two years later, they meet again--the story starts there . . .

Once you have read it, you'll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens. The magic is in how the story unfolds.
So I'm curious about this now: Does anyone who objected to my copy below like this better? If you do like this better, then I would guess that it's mostly a matter of style -- that mine was signed "The Editors," which was, perhaps, a little obsequious; and that mine wasn't that polished. Also, this is not demanding five minutes of your time to read the first chapter. But if you don't, then I'd guess it's the whole principle of the thing. . . .

I dislike this copy, actually -- the slight condescension of the "kind of choice we hope you never have to make" undercuts the supposed terribleness of whatever that terrible choice is, and "one fateful day" and "magic" make it sound twee. The cover is really gorgeous, and the pages have deckled edges, but I wanted to read this book less after I read the copy. . . . (And sure, perhaps I'd dislike my own copy if I had distance from it.) It would be interesting to talk to the editor about it, and will be interesting to see what they do with the paperback.

And anyone read the book? Is it any good?

A Little Flap Copy Reader-Response Question

Just out of curiosity, how would you all, as readers, respond if you opened up a book and read this flap copy? My curiosity is sincere, though the chance that we'll actually use this copy is small.
Dear Reader,

This is an amazing novel about a boy who works miracles and his older sister, who tries to stop him. (It is also about the existence of God.) However, we have decided we don’t want to waste your valuable time with more flap copy. Instead, we encourage you to flip to page 1 and read the first chapter—yes, the whole thing. It is also amazing. You will not regret it. Thank you for your time.

The Editors
What would you do? (It really is an astonishing first chapter.)

Next Kidlit Drink Night!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010
starting at 6:30 p.m.
Faces & Names, 159 W. 54th St. in NYC

Because the ALA awards will be a scant five days away, we'll have a Newbery/Caldecott/Printz prediction contest with FABULOUS PRIZES -- to be determined, but we promise they'll be worthy of the all-caps. And we'll be collecting kids' and YA books for Project Cicero, "an annual non-profit book drive designed to create -- or supplement -- school and classroom libraries for children in under-resourced New York City public schools." So gather your guesses and your extra books and join us on Wednesday the 13th!

(And if you'd like to be on our e-mail list for future events, shoot us a message at nyckidlitdrinks at gmail dot com.)

The Quote File: God

It is the final proof of God's omnipotence that he need not exist in order to save us. - Peter De Vries

God is of no importance unless He is of utmost importance. - Abraham Joshua Heschel

Those who believe that they believe in God, but without passion in their hearts, without anguish in mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe in the God idea, not God himself. - Miguel de Unamuno

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God? - Epicurus

Imagine a world in which generations of human beings come to believe that certain films were made by God or that specific software was coded by him. Imagine a future in which millions of our descendants murder each other over rival interpretations of Star Wars or Windows 98. Could anything -- anything -- be more ridiculous? And yet, this would be no more ridiculous than the world we are living in. - Sam Harris

If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul. - Isaac Asimov

I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own -- a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. - Albert Einstein

It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. - Thomas Jefferson

Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God's service when it is violating all his laws. - John Adams

I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires. - Susan B Anthony

It has always seemed absurd to suppose that a god would choose for his companions, during all eternity, the dear souls whose highest and only ambition is to obey. - Robert Green Ingersoll

Your mind works very simply: you are either trying to find out what are God's laws in order to follow them; or you are trying to outsmart Him. - Martin H. Fischer

A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers no harm done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair. - Abraham Joshua Heschel

Someday, after we have mastered the wind, the waves, tides and gravity, we will harness for God the energies of love; and then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire. - Teilhard de Chardin

God is conscience. He is even the atheism of the atheist. - Mohandas K. Gandhi

God made man because He loves stories. - Elie Wiesel

God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars. – Martin Luther

But I always think that the best way to know God is to love many things. - Vincent van Gogh

We need God, not in order to understand the why, but in order to feel and sustain the ultimate wherefore, to give a meaning to the universe. - Miguel de Unamuno

God is not what you imagine or what you think you understand. If you understand you have failed. - Saint Augustine

Life is God's novel. Let him write it. - Isaac Bashevis Singer

More -- and several of these quotations taken from -- here.

Decisions, Decisions

Contrary to appearances, I have been plugging away at my book -- indeed, that's partly why the blog has been quiet lately, that my writing brain is going into revising those talks (lightly). I'm now at a point where I need to decide which of the two versions of my 2006 plot talk will go into the text . . . if either, as there's also a 2008 plot talk that will definitely be in the book. And unavoidably for me, it makes many of the same points, albeit from a different angle and with rather different emphases.

So I thought I would ask you, dear readers, as you know best what's most useful and fun for you: Would you rather have Aristotle, Austen, Plot, and Pleasure: What a Dead Greek Philosopher and A Classic English Novelist Can Teach Us About Writing for Children? Or its slimmer, sleeker, less personal but rather more user-friendly cousin, The Essentials of Plot? (They're really far too much alike to justify including both.) Or do you think one plot talk is enough for a writing book? Let me know:

This poll will close next Thursday, December 12, at midnight; any further thoughts are welcome in the comments. The book should now hopefully be available -- knock wood and my work and designer's schedules -- by the end of February 2010. Thank you for your patience, and your feedback!

ETA: Please note this poll is not in reference to the TITLE of my book, as some commenters seem to believe; that's pretty well fixed in my head as SECOND SIGHT, with a charming cover with eyeglasses and everything. This poll is in reference to which of two very similar talks should appear WITHIN the book. Apologies for the lack of clarity.

Twitter Chat with Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

In a wide-ranging chat earlier today ("today" actually being January 22nd, 2010; this post has been backdated because of space issues), Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and I discussed writing, editing, character-building, and race in publishing with a group of thoughtful Twitterers. Le transcript:

January 22, 2010
2:23 am olugbemisola: RT @srjohannes: RT @chavelaque: @olugbemisola and cheryl will Twitter-chat Friday from 12-1 EST, hashtag #8GS0. Details: http://shar.es/aTaV5
2:28 pm chavelaque: Last reminder: @olugbemisola and I Twitter-chat TODAY from 12-1, hashtag #8GS0. Transcript will be posted afterward.
2:30 pm SaraKase: RT @chavelaque: Last reminder: @olugbemisola and I Twitter-chat TODAY from 12-1, hashtag #8GS0. Transcript will be posted afterward.
2:30 pm TaraLazar: EIGHTH-GRADE SUPERZERO! RT @chavelaque: @olugbemisola & I Twitter-chat TODAY from 12-1, hashtag #8GS0. Transcript posted afterward. #kidlit
2:31 pm JacquiRobbins: RT @chavelaque Last reminder: @olugbemisola and I Twitter-chat TODAY from 12-1, hashtag #8GS0. Transcript will be posted afterward.
2:33 pm victoriajcoe: RT @chavelaque Reminder: @olugbemisola and I Twitter-chat TODAY from 12-1, hashtag #8GS0. Transcript will be posted afterward. #kidlit
2:42 pm AALBooks: TODAY twitterchat with @olugbemisola and @chavelaque 12 pm EST SHARP use hashtag #8GS0. Be there or be a SUPERZERO!
3:20 pm inkyelbows: Twitterchat: @olugbemisola & @chavelaque TODAY 12-1p EST, hashtag #8GS0. Details: http://shar.es/aTaV5 (via @srjohannes)
3:22 pm hashtager: # Twitterchat: @olugbemisola & @chavelaque TODAY 12-1p EST, hashtag #8GS0. Details: http://shar.es/aTaV5 (via @srjohannes)
5:00 pm chavelaque: <> Hello, anyone? #8GS0
5:01 pm olugbemisola: I'm here! (I think) #8GS0 #8GS0
5:01 pm HeleneBoudreau: RT @chavelaque: <> Hello, anyone? #8GS0
5:01 pm StephanieDBrown: Hello! Thanks for doing this. :) #8GS0
5:02 pm victoriajcoe: Congrats on the book! Crazy in love with the characters! #8GS0
5:02 pm SaraLewisHolmes: I'm here, coffee in hand. It's sleeting outside, so I'm relieved to be inside listening to you two! #8gs0
5:02 pm chavelaque: Oh, good! Welcome, everyone, & good to see you as always, @olugbemisola. :-) #8GS0
5:03 pm lauram68: @chavelaque hey chica! #8gs0
5:03 pm olugbemisola: thanks! this will be fun. #8GS0
5:03 pm StephanieDBrown: I ordered #8GS0 yesterday and I can't wait for my copy to arrive in the mail! I keep hearing how wonderful the characters are.
5:04 pm olugbemisola: @StephanieDBrown thank u! character is my favourite part of the writing process #8GS0
5:04 pm chavelaque: Just to dive right in, Gbemi - I've heard you say SUPERZERO started with an image. What was it, & how did you develop it from there? #8GS0
5:04 pm thebrainlair: i just started reading. I'm at the part when Reggie goes to the homeless shelter with the youth group. Is it okay to join? #8gs0
5:05 pm olugbemisola: a boy in his bed in the middle of the night with the cover pulled over his head because there were bugs loose in his room #8GS0
5:05 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque & he was terrified that one would crawl into his mouth. & it was secretly being filmed 4 a school TV show. #8GS0
5:05 pm chavelaque: @thebrainlair Absolutely! The convo will be more general/writing/etc. than book-plot focused. #8GS0
5:05 pm olugbemisola: @thebrainlair please do! #8GS0
5:05 pm thebrainlair: RT @chavelaque: dive right in, Gbemi - Ive heard U say SUPERZERO started w/ an image. Wht was it, & how did U develop it from there? #8GS0
5:06 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque all of that changed, including his age, but his personality remained the same #8GS0
5:07 pm chavelaque: @olugbemisola Yup! And it really did start w/ ideas of embarrassment at school, fear, how that's connected to home . . . #8GS0
5:07 pm StephanieDBrown: @olugbemisola so it seems that photo of a boy's fears spoke to you? #8GS0
5:07 pm thebrainlair: Join the chat with @olugbemisola and @chavelaque about writing and 8th grade superzero #8gs0
5:07 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque i did not at all expect to develop that image into a book #8GS0
5:08 pm olugbemisola: @StephanieDBrown definitely. that time during the teen years... #8GS0
5:08 pm chavelaque: @olugbemisola You had to write three pages for a class or writing group, right? #8GS0
5:08 pm olugbemisola: @StephanieDBrown that acute self-consciousness... #8GS0
5:09 pm SaraLewisHolmes: Are YOU afraid of bugs? Or TV shows? Or did you draw on other fears? #8gs0
5:09 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque yes, it was the night b4 the application was due 4 a wkshp w. Paula Danziger #8GS0
5:09 pm olugbemisola: @SaraLewisHolmes i am afraid of bugs now, i'm sorry to say. didn't used to be! i used to make 'ant hospitals' when i was a kid! #8GS0
5:10 pm olugbemisola: @SaraLewisHolmes i try to hide my current fear from my bug-enthusiast daughter. #8GS0
5:10 pm chavelaque: @olugbemisola So where did you take it from there? #8GS0
5:11 pm chavelaque: Also what strikes me about it is that so often, as an editor, I'm trying to push through the story/action to get to the prime emotion #8GS0
5:11 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque Paula really encouraged me to continue on, and I didn't listen to her for a long time, but #8GS0
5:11 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque the character stayed with me #8GS0
5:12 pm chavelaque: + that the scene needs to convey, so we can better build action to do that - sounds like you started with emotion & built from there #8GS0
5:12 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque and after deciding to change Reggie's age from 10 to 13, there were themes that i really wanted to explore #8GS0
5:13 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque definitely. character and emotion are my favourite parts of the process. #8GS0
5:13 pm chavelaque: @olugbemisola Did you develop Reggie consciously? Profiles, taste charts, etc.? Or more through just writing? #8GS0
5:14 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque i spend a *lot* of time thinking & writing notes, #8GS0
5:14 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque I do a lot of "think" writing, & imagine my characters in different situations, at different points during the day... #8GS0
5:15 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque when i'm riding the train or walking, i might imagine "what would x do in this situation, or in this conversation, #8GS0
5:15 pm olugbemisola: or if she had to confront that person" etc. a lot happens in the course of revision too. & sometimes a scene will come to mind, #8GS0
5:15 pm victoriajcoe: @olugbemisola, How did you decide how much personal context to give each 2ndary character (eg, Vicki, Donovan)? #8GS0
5:16 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque sometimes i see people who remind me of some aspect of a character, and observe them for a while. #8GS0
5:16 pm olugbemisola: @victoriajcoe Vicky is NOTHING like any Vickys I know! :) #8GS0
5:17 pm victoriajcoe: @olugbemisola I'm serious! #8gs0
5:17 pm olugbemisola: @victoriajcoe I was very interested in an 'ensemble piece', and i think that #8GS0
5:17 pm olugbemisola: @victoriajcoe well-developed 2ndary characters really move the story along and go along way toward the MC's growth #8GS0
5:18 pm olugbemisola: @victoriajcoe and the 'mean' characters are a lot of fun! #8GS0
5:19 pm victoriajcoe: @olugbemisola I loved what you said: Everyone has a story, and everyone's story matters #8gs0
5:19 pm chavelaque: @olugbemisola @victoriajcoe There's one scene w/ Vicky in the cafeteria we played and played with to get right -- #8GS0
5:19 pm SaraLewisHolmes: I agree. Outstanding secondary characters are necessary for me to fall into the world of a book. Can't just be the MC. #8gs0
5:19 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque i don't do much character journaling, but i did 4 reggie because i struggled quite a bit with making him sympathetic #8GS0
5:20 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque without making him seem too whiny. #8GS0
5:20 pm chavelaque: + I think it came out of the MS once, then went back in - b/c it did show that Vicky had feelings, & a story, when she comes off hard. #8GS0
5:20 pm StephanieDBrown: @olugbemisola how long did you work on it before you started working with @chavelaque? #8GS0
5:21 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque that was important to me, and in a way it was equally important to me to leave out a lot of Donovan's backstory #8GS0
5:22 pm olugbemisola: @StephanieDBrown well...i started those first three pages in 2002, then i didn't do anything with it until the summer of 2006 when i #8GS0
5:22 pm olugbemisola: @StephanieDBrown queried @chavelaque #8GS0
5:22 pm victoriajcoe: @olugbemisola @chevaleque Yes, the 2ndary characters' stories seem to matter and it's all very satisfying #8gs0
5:23 pm olugbemisola: @StephanieDBrown i shouldn't say i didn't do anything...i think my subconscious worked on it a lot, and oh! #8GS0
5:23 pm chavelaque: @olugbemisola Wait, you hadn't written the book when you queried me? #8GS0
5:24 pm olugbemisola: @StephanieDBrown i did a fantastic workshop with author kate morgenroth and worked out some of the chapters & themes then #8GS0
5:24 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque um. #8GS0
5:24 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque how would you define 'written'? #8GS0
5:24 pm chavelaque: @olugbemisola I did not know this. Normally I disapprove, b/c I think writers shld be committed w/o editor's interest. #8GS0
5:25 pm olugbemisola: @victoriajcoe thank you! #8GS0
5:25 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque i was stuck for a long time, and my master plan #8GS0
5:25 pm chavelaque: @olugbemisola But I will forgive you. :-) - Sry, just saw yrs. "written" = "completed draft." #8GS0
5:25 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque was that querying you would get me over the finish line #8GS0
5:26 pm StephanieDBrown: @olugbemisola It sounds like you did a lot of writing in those yrs btw 02-06; and I know every writer's process is different. #8GS0
5:26 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque thank you! (but, don't try this at home, kids.) #8GS0
5:27 pm KarenMusings: @olugbemisola Were you involved in any critique groups when you were writing the book? If so, were they helpful? #8GS0
5:27 pm chavelaque: @olugbemisola I was surprised you queried me, honestly, b/c it seems often Black writers submit mostly to Black editors-understandably #8GS0
5:27 pm olugbemisola: @StephanieDBrown i did. i have journals and notebooks full of scenes, notes, random thoughts, etc. that all #8GS0
5:27 pm olugbemisola: @StephanieDBrown contributed to the final story #8GS0
5:28 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque well, for one thing, there weren't very many 2 submit to, which is a problem #8GS0
5:28 pm StephanieDBrown: @olugbemisola Picking up from @chavelaque comment, what made you query her? #8GS0
5:29 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque & i had spent a lot of time reading your blog and going over books you'd edited, and thought that you would connect #8GS0
5:29 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque with some of the themes in the story #8GS0
5:30 pm StephanieDBrown: @olugbemisola Got my answer. :) #8GS0
5:30 pm olugbemisola: @KarenMusings i was in one with kate morgenroth that was very helpful, especially in highlighting Reggie's positive qualities #8GS0
5:30 pm chavelaque: @olugbemisola Which I did! And I was honored/excited to work on it. #8GS0
5:30 pm olugbemisola: @StephanieDBrown ok, cool! :) #8GS0
5:31 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque thank you! right back at you. you were so helpful in the revision process #8GS0
5:31 pm editorgurl: Listening in on the great conversation with editor @chavelaque and @olugbemisola right now. Follow with hashtag: #8GS0
5:32 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque esp. because you care about structure and story and look for ways to construct a story #8GS0
5:32 pm chavelaque: @olugbemisola I admit I sometimes also felt like Stupid White Editor, not quite getting something outside my experience. #8GS0
5:32 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque without sacrificing its emotional heart #8GS0
5:33 pm StephanieDBrown: @olugbemisola I was inspired by your author video. You'd make a great speaker @ libraries, bk stores & schools. Any dates set yet? #8GS0
5:33 pm chavelaque: + But I felt that way with @saralewisholmes's OPERATION YES too, where I was Stupid Civilian Editor, not getting something military... #8GS0
5:33 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque the important thing was that you were willing to engage, and didn't dismiss it as alien simply because of the race of #8GS0
5:33 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque the characters. #8GS0
5:33 pm KarenMusings: @chavelaque Do you think that writers of color are sometimes put into a box of the type of topics that they can write? #8GS0
5:33 pm gregpincus: Me, too! RT @editorgurl: Listening in on the great conversation w/ editor @chavelaque and @olugbemisola right now.Follow with hashtag: #8GS0
5:34 pm chavelaque: + A big part of being an editor: being humble & getting educated by yr authors, & helping share their story clearly w/ all readers. #8GS0
5:34 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque i do appreciate editors, readers, etc. of other races, ethnicities, & cultures who are willing to cross borders, #8GS0
5:34 pm StephanieDBrown: @KarenMusings Great question! #8GS0
5:35 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque engage, educate themselves... in the end, that willingness 2keep trying to get it right, on all sides, is vital #8GS0
5:36 pm chavelaque: @olugbemisola Me too! "the willingness to keep trying to get it right," even when miscommunications or misunderstandings happen -- #8GS0
5:36 pm thaliachaltas: RT @gregpincus: @editorgurl: Listening in on the great conversation w/ editor @chavelaque and @olugbemisola right now.Follow hashtag #8GS0
5:36 pm olugbemisola: @StephanieDBrown thank you! that was hard. and yes, i am doing one next week! #8GS0
5:36 pm chavelaque: @olugbemisola Crucially important. & everyone getting their egos out of the way for the good of characters, story & book. #8GS0
5:37 pm olugbemisola: @KarenMusings absolutely. #8GS0
5:37 pm olugbemisola: @KarenMusings it's offensive, and silly, really... #8GS0
5:37 pm bonnieadamson: Also lurkimg . . .RT @gregpincus @editorgurl: Listening in on great conversation w/ editor @chavelaque and @olugbemisola right now. #8GS0
5:37 pm SaraLewisHolmes: @chavelaque You were NEVER Stupid Civilian Editor. Always curious, kind editor. #8gs0
5:38 pm olugbemisola: @KarenMusings just like anyone else, our stories are about more than the colour of our skin, though they are very much impacted #8GS0
5:38 pm olugbemisola: @KarenMusings by that, and very much enriched by that as well. #8GS0
5:38 pm StephanieDBrown: @olugbemisola It didn't look hard. It seems u spoke from the heart in that video. I knew then that your book would read the same way. #8GS0
5:39 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque that was why i was stuck 4 such a long time... #8GS0
5:39 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque i was thinking more about me the author than the characters and their stories #8GS0
5:39 pm 2nickels: @olugbemisola Sounds like you started with characters (not surprising! such good characters!) - how did the plot come into place? #8gs0
5:39 pm KarenMusings: RT @StephanieDBrown: @olugbemisola It seems u spoke from the heart in that video. <--Yes, totally agree. Loved it. #8GS0
5:39 pm olugbemisola: @StephanieDBrown thank you! it really helped that it was done with family -- a filmmaker who is a very dear friend, my husband, #8GS0
5:40 pm olugbemisola: @StephanieDBrown my sister, and my daughter (who was an exceptional crew member!) i wouldn't have done it otherwise. #8GS0
5:41 pm olugbemisola: @2nickels i did early on have an idea of the school election...and of my MC having thrown up on the first day of school #8GS0
5:41 pm bonnieadamson: @olugbemisola Adding my congratulations on a beautiful trailer. #8GS0, a
5:41 pm olugbemisola: @2nickels & needing 2 get past that. a lot of the work that i did with children & teens in the meantime really informed the story #8GS0
5:41 pm chavelaque: @saralewisholmes Well, thx! But I *felt* like Stupid Civilian Editor. & it's hard, when I'm used to being Editor w/ (some) Answers - #8GS0
5:42 pm olugbemisola: @bonnieadamson thank you! #8GS0
5:42 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque you are The Editrix! #8GS0
5:42 pm chavelaque: + to let go & admit what feels like stupidity. #8GS0
5:42 pm olugbemisola: @victoriajcoe you should have seen me in high school! :) #8GS0
5:43 pm chavelaque: @olugbemisola Process Q's: What's yr usual writing schedule? Morning, midday, or night? Pen & paper or computer? Best writing place? #8GS0
5:43 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque i think it was katherine paterson who wrote that a stupid person is someone who doesn't know today #8GS0
5:44 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque what u found out yesterday. also, accepting ignorance and moving forward from there is not stupidity! #8GS0
5:44 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque i think i am at my best in the morning, after prayer. #8GS0
5:45 pm chavelaque: @olugbemisola. V. true, thanks. But did not intend this to turn into Reassure-Editor Chat! Just admitting humility. ;-) #8GS0
5:45 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque But i?ve had to learn to use whatever time i have; sometimes i don?t get the ideal ?writerly? time every day #8GS0
5:47 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque i most always use pen & paper first. nice & portable. i no longer have a laptop! don't think i have a best place to write. #8GS0
5:47 pm SaraLewisHolmes: @olugbemisola If this is too personal, forgive me. Do you pray about your writing? (as one who does herself) #8gs0
5:47 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque wish that i was someone who could write at cafes-i used to fantasize about that as a kid, but most times that i try #8GS0
5:47 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque i feel extremely pretentious. i like working at home, in public libraries...school library is great too. #8GS0
5:48 pm StephanieDBrown: @olugbemisola Pen & paper gets the ideas flowing, for sure. #8GS0
5:48 pm olugbemisola: @SaraLewisHolmes yes and yes! i pray a lot about the 'getting out of the way' that we talked about earlier. #8GS0
5:48 pm KarenMusings: RT @olugbemisola: i most always use pen & paper first. nice & portable. <-- Starting to realize this now too. Laptops distract me. #8GS0
5:49 pm olugbemisola: @SaraLewisHolmes for 'eyes that see' and 'ears that hear'. #8GS0
5:49 pm StephanieDBrown: @olugbemisola how do you know when your book ends? #8GS0
5:49 pm chavelaque: @olugbemisola Are any of yr favorite places in Brooklyn mentioned in the book? (Love our borough! = another thing I connected with.) #8GS0
5:49 pm StephanieDBrown: @olugbemisola Who're some of the writers who've inspired you? #8GS0
5:49 pm olugbemisola: @StephanieDBrown i really believe that, then by the time i get to the computer, i've done some revising and thinking already #8GS0
5:50 pm olugbemisola: @StephanieDBrown for SUPERZERO, and for my WIP, I had the end in mind very early on #8GS0
5:51 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque Brooklyn Bridge!i love seeing the sun rise up there. i love seeing people of all sizes, shapes, colours, ages, #8GS0
5:51 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque physical abilities, traveling back & 4th on foot, on bicycles, in wheelchairs -- everything. #8GS0
5:51 pm chavelaque: @olugbemisola @StephanieDBrown 2 go back 2 something earlier-1 of my fave writing quotes is "A writer does not know what a book is" #8GS0
5:51 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque i love that i've been seeing & chatting with some of the same people on the bridge 4 years; #8GS0
5:51 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque sometimes if you haven't been around 4 a while, they ask after you! very cool. i get story ideas up there a lot. #8GS0
5:52 pm chavelaque: + "till he gets to the end of it, & rest must be revised to fit that" - Maxwell Perkins. & that's why I worry when writers submit #8GS0
5:52 pm olugbemisola: @StephanieDBrown maya angelou, zora neale hurston, madeleine l'engle, paula danziger, chinua achebe... #8GS0
5:52 pm AudryT: :::taking a look to see what #8GS0 is:::::::
5:52 pm olugbemisola: c.s. lewis. eloise greenfield, camille yarbrough #8GS0
5:52 pm chavelaque: + before book is done, b/c not all thinking/knowledge of book is there yet, so it isn't really ready to submit. #8GS0
5:53 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque great quote. it was, and is a struggle to avoid that force-fitting trap. #8GS0
5:54 pm StephanieDBrown: @chavelaque Great quote! That's why getting through the 1st draft is so important & revising afterward. #8GS0
5:54 pm chavelaque: @olugbemisola LOVE the bridge too. In the summer, I walk home across it from work sometimes -- always a great day. #8GS0
5:55 pm chavelaque: @olugbemisola Key thought of the book is that small things can make a big difference - any small things you'd like Twitterers to know? #8GS0
5:55 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque actually, i guess the bridge features more in my possible ruthie story (so far) than in 8GS0, but it was a big part of #8GS0
5:55 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque the writing process for me #8GS0
5:56 pm StephanieDBrown: @olugbemisola Great list of inspiring authors! #8GS0
5:56 pm olugbemisola: @StephanieDBrown i love love love to revise #8GS0
5:56 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque a kind word to a family member is just as important as waging a large campaign 4 justice #8GS0
5:57 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque it's good to do things that make u uncomfortable sometimes, and then not feel obligated to do them again #8GS0
5:57 pm SaraLewisHolmes: Small things: e.e. cummings: "may my heart always be open to little birds who are the secrets of living... #8gs0
5:57 pm SaraLewisHolmes: + /whatever they sing is better than to know" #8gs0
5:57 pm AuthoressAnon: @olugbemisola @chavelaque May I just say--I WAS THERE watching it unfold behind the scenes! And squeed a lot. =D #8GS0
5:57 pm chavelaque: @KarenMusings You asked me the writers of color box question ... I don't know. I'm open to every human story, I hope. #8GS0
5:57 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque bananas are an almost perfect snack (that was one of the last things my mom told me b4 she died) #8GS0
5:58 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque i had a banana on release day #8GS0
5:58 pm chavelaque: @KarenMusings But the writers themselves can prob. speak better to that question than I. #8GS0
5:58 pm olugbemisola: @SaraLewisHolmes that's beautiful #8GS0
5:59 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque i'm going to have one now #8GS0
5:59 pm KarenMusings: @chavelaque I agree. Stories are emotional and speak from the heart. And that is universal. #8GS0
5:59 pm chavelaque: @olugbemisola Oh, that's wonderful! Your mother is right. Portable, tasty, and cheerful, like a smile: :-) #8GS0
5:59 pm SaraLewisHolmes: @olugbemisola So is the fact that you ate a banana on release day. :) #8gs0
5:59 pm AudryT: Oooh, #8GS0 is all about SUPERZERO, writing, and publishing. Very cool!
6:00 pm victoriajcoe: We should all eat a banana now! #8GS0
6:00 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque @saralewisholmes :) #8GS0
6:00 pm SaraLewisHolmes: RT @olugbemisola: @chavelaque its good to do things that make u uncomfortable sometimes, and then not feel obligated to do them again #8gs0
6:00 pm StephanieDBrown: @chavelaque That's so true! I never thought of it...but a banana curves like a smile! :) #8GS0
6:00 pm olugbemisola: @victoriajcoe :D #8GS0
6:00 pm chavelaque: @olugbemisola @victoriajcoe Yay for bananas! And SUPERZERO! #8GS0
6:01 pm olugbemisola: thanks so much, everyone! #8GS0
6:01 pm victoriajcoe: @chavelaque @olugbemisola Thanks so much for the chat! #8gs0
6:02 pm chavelaque: It's 1 p.m. - thanks so much to you all for joining us!! A transcript will be posted at one of our blogs soon. #8GS0
6:02 pm KarenMusings: Thank you @olugbemisola @chavelaque. Great chat. #8GS0
6:02 pm olugbemisola: @chavelaque thanks again! and thank you, cheryl! #8GS0
6:02 pm StephanieDBrown: @olugbemisola @chavelaque Thank you for a wonderful chat! #8GS0
6:03 pm bonnieadamson: @chavelaque @olugbemisola Thank you both! #8GS0
6:03 pm SaraLewisHolmes: Hugs to you both. This was lovely. #8gs0
6:04 pm olugbemisola: you all made this a pleasure. #8GS0
6:04 pm olugbemisola: have a wonderful day! #8GS0
6:07 pm curiousmartha: RT @chavelaque: + A big part of being an editor: being humble & getting educated by yr authors, & helping share their story clearly w/ all readers. #8GS0
6:09 pm kristinlgray: @chavelaque @olugbemisola Thank you both! #8GS0
6:13 pm olugbemisola: & multicultural & multiethnic literature & literacy came up, the importance of education & engaging... #8GS0
6:14 pm olugbemisola: wanted to share some resources: @readingincolor @mitaliperkins @CrazyQuilts @CynLeitichSmith @debreese @chasingray #8GS0
6:14 pm olugbemisola: @coloronline @thebrownbookshelf (28 days later coming soon!) @BronzeWord @nathaliemvondo #8GS0
6:14 pm olugbemisola: Bowllan's Blog at SLJ: http://tinyurl.com/5sgce5 Doret at http://thehappynappybookseller.blogspot.com/ #8GS0
6:16 pm olugbemisola: reading the world challenge @ http://www.papertigers.org global reading challenge@ http://2010globalchallenge.blogspot.com/ #8GS0

An Unexpected "Thank You"

When I was trying to think what I wanted to write for a Thanksgiving post, Alanis Morissette's "Thank You," off her 1999 album "Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie," popped into my head as a silly joke. Alanis? For Thanksgiving? She's Canadian, for goodness's sake. But I have always liked her for her emotional nakedness and sheer belting, and liked the song, too, for its hypnotic rhythm and narrative of slow progress toward health and peace. And when I thought more about the lyrics of the chorus:

thank you india
thank you terror
thank you disillusionment
thank you frailty
thank you consequence
thank you thank you silence

I realized how interesting and appropriate they would be for Thanksgiving. Because the song is not about giving thanks for good things, like I do every day, for sweet potatoes and my family and James and a warm bed and the novels of Georgette Heyer; but rather giving thanks to things, sometimes (not always) hard things, for experiences that made me better by pushing me beyond where I had been. And Thanksgiving at its best is meant to be both, I think: a peaceful moment of good things, celebrating a respite from the difficult ones; and gratitude for all of the harvest of one's year.

So there is no way to make this lyrically pretty, no matter what beat I put under it, but I would say thank you to rejection, anxiety, and self-consciousness; Park Slope United Methodist Church; my authors; my commenters here; various people discussing various questions in children's literature; therapy, yoga, running; Kickstarter; the bloggers at the Atlantic; and all the people in my life, especially my friends. And I am thankful for many of those same things, and for cuisines from around the world and good movies and independent bookstores and my running shoes and blonde hair, and public transportation even when I curse it, and my job even when I want to do nothing, and James Franco on "General Hospital" and "Glee" and the good gentlemen of Project Rungay, and for many things more. And for Alanis, too, for always being so thoroughly herself.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Those Interested in Issues of Race and Children's Literature . . .

. . . should check out this interesting post and discussion today at Ta-Nehisi Coates's blog, as I think a lot of what he and his commenters say about the writers and characters on television could apply to our discussions of children's publishing as well. I was especially struck first by this:
But whenever I read that XX field isn't diverse enough, I don't so much doubt the truth of it, as I think the charge deeply underestimates exactly the price being exacted for white supremacy in this country, and the length of time for which it went unchecked. We're 50 years into a truly democratic, non white-supremacists America. Congratulations. But we we spent some 150 years in which the country's major institutions--its government, its business, its churches, its block associations, its military, its police force, its labor unions--in the main, aided and abetted white racism. There are certainly exceptions, but I tend to think that the long-term damage done is incalculable and has a lot to do with how we live today.
and then later by these comments, also from Ta-Nehisi:
For minorities, I think people really need to think about what kind of people go into writing, and what sort of backgrounds they generally hail from. I know in magazines, the sort of profile for writers (family, generally, pretty well-educated, sent the writer to an Ivy) doesn't match up that well with black people. People always ask "Why aren't there many minority XXX?" But there are a lot of questions that should precede that one.

. . .

Again, speaking only for magazines, it takes a particular person who can write, and then a particular person who can write in that format. This isn't simply a talent question, it takes a particular endurance, and it takes time to develop that endurance. How do you get that time? Money--or a willingness to live without it. Take color out the equation--there are very few people who can do the job. Finding good writers--of any color--is extremely difficult.

Now, just speaking for a black people, look at a group that's only 13 percent of the pop, and isn't as well educated. Then take the fact that the group's families tend to be less wealthy, thus making it hard to get the time to get good. Take into account that, often, when someone from this group "makes it" they have brothers/sisters/mothers/grandmothers/grandfathers who they have to also worry about. I think a lot of us say, "Man, I kids to feed" and go for the sure thing. The point is that you're already talking about a small pool, and for black people it's almost certainly even smaller.

Does this mean media should say, "Oh well, we tried." Nope. But it means media should get smarter. If you really are concerned about diversity then you need to start with high school kids. You can't start looking for fully formed adults. You need to set aside fellowships for people from particular economic backgrounds to help them learn the craft. You have to think broader and bigger.

I don't disagree with the core goal, I just suspect that it may require more than we think.

I've been thinking a lot about the "Why are there so few minorities in children's literature?" question since the Liar controversy -- well, before then, too, but Liar was the tipping point for me, as it was for many people -- and I think these comments get at one part of an answer (though of course not the whole answer, if such a thing were even possible). I genuinely do not receive many submissions from people of color (who can be identified as such, that is), and with those that I do, as TNC says, "It takes a particular person who can write, and a particular person who can write in that format" -- someone who wants to write the literary sort of book we publish at Arthur A. Levine Books, and can pull it off to our standards. (And I acknowledge here the problematic nature of "literary" and "standards," though I'm not going to go into that at this hour of the night.) The point is, that is not a large pool of writers altogether of any race, and as black people (to take the minority TNC is thinking of) are thirteen percent of the population, the segment submitting mss. to us, and therefore getting them published, is correspondingly rather small.

None of which excuses any publisher from a responsibility to remember the shameful history TNC alludes to in the first paragraph I quoted, and to try to represent all voices now (which we at AALB do), and even to go beyond that -- to get smarter, as he says above. And I am really, genuinely, not meaning to make excuses with this post, and I'm sorry if you're hearing it that way. I'm saying, as I understand TNC to be, that if we look at the question culturally, there are larger reasons this lack of minorities is happening in our industry, and across most media; and while we need to address the problem where we live, certainly, these reasons are worth thinking about as well.

ETA: I withdraw this post. Just read the comments on it.

On Protests and Publishing

And now, a conservative Christian group protests Luv Ya Bunches.

Of course, this was only to be expected; that's the way conservative Christians roll, and it's their absolute right to do so. But if you disagree with them -- as I do, as a Christian myself, a reader, and a human being -- then please think about this: This Christianist* organization is bringing negative economic pressure to bear by threatening to boycott an entire company based on one title. This hurts a lot of people -- my company**, sure, and all my authors, but also the authors from other companies who are represented in the Fairs, and their respective publishers.

But we readers can create positive economic pressure in a way that actually benefits the publishing industry and the authors we support. And that's by buying books with gay characters -- either the book in question if it's in a Fair, which will prove desire for such books outweighs the repressive effects of the Christianists, or other books in the bookstores, which does the same in the trade.*** I'm suggesting this because publishing is a business, and, as we all know from Capitalism 101, sales success speaks just as loudly as moral indignation in the business world -- even more loudly, in some ways, because it means consumers are literally putting their money where their mouths are. That's what this Christianist organization has done by threatening to withhold sales from the company simply because it has dared to list a book with lesbian moms. And that's what we fans of lesbian moms can do too, and counteract the organization's effects at the same time, by buying Wide Awake, or Absolutely Positively Not, or Absolutely Maybe, or Totally Joe, or Everywhere Babies (one of my personal favorite picture books ever), or Twelve Long Months, or many other wonderful titles.

If books with gay characters sell well, more writers will feel free to write them, it will be easier for editors to acquire and publish them, and there will be more of them in the world. But that responsibility for sales rests with readers and book-buyers as much as it does with publishers, to show that there's a demand for such characters against those who'd like to repress their very existence. If you care about this cause, then read the books, write the books, but please, also, buy the books and get other people to buy the books. Every book really does make a difference.

* A term borrowed from Andrew Sullivan to identify people who use their Christian faith for a right-wing political agenda. See his explication of it here.
** Yes, this relates to a division of the company for which I work (not my division), and so the caveat in the sidebar of my blog applies here more than ever: All opinions expressed here are only my own, and are not the official views of said company. But I would feel the same way and say the same things if it were a different company.

*** Actually, this could also apply to books with black characters, or Native American characters, or differently abled characters, or any group whose existence is underrepresented or often challenged in literature and you would like to see more books with them. It is more Capitalism 101 to say that the business world loves success and tries to duplicate it endlessly -- witness the spate of paranormal romance titles in the wake of Twilight. Make a real success happen for a book you love, and more books like it will follow.

I'm Ba-a-ck!

Back-ish, anyway. I spoke at the Western Washington SCBWI retreat last weekend -- a lovely conference -- and two of my three Fall 2010 novels are now in copyediting, with the next to follow within the week (right, Author Who Should Be Revising Rather Than Reading This Blog or Facebook*?), so I am now free, by my own standards, to blog again at will. But it seems to be taking a little time to move my brain from a work place to a blog-writing place, so here are some tidbits to get it going again:
  • Kidlit Drinks Night tonight (Thursday the 12th) at the Globe Bar on 23rd! I'll be there at 6; Betsy will join us at 7-ish; all shall be swanky.
  • A lovely, lovely book I edited, The Snow Day by Komako Sakai, was named a New York Times Best Illustrated Book! It has also been named a Kirkus Reviews Best Book for Children. I adore this book for how beautifully it evokes a day spent inside, waiting for the snow to stop, but there's a real emotional wallop to it, as you realize how very present the missing character actually is all that day. Writers, if you're going to do a quiet book, this is a good model for its careful precision, pacing, and scope.
  • And Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork was named both a Publishers Weekly Best Book and an Amazon.com Teens Top Ten.
  • And The Snow Day, Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally) by Lisa Yee, and Wishworks Inc. by Stephanie Tolan were all named to the New York Public Library's One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing.
  • And in AALB-wide accolades, Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan was both a NYT Best Illustrated and a PW Best Book, and Lips Touch by Laini Taylor was also a PW Best Book, and Blue Mountain Trouble by Martin Mordecai was also a Kirkus Best Book!
  • My church's annual holiday crafts fair -- a great place to pick up beautiful handmade gifts and participate in a silent auction for services from local businesses -- will be this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Camp Friendship, on 8th St. just below 6th Ave. in Park Slope. I will again be donating an hour of editorial services of some kind (bidder's choice) for the silent auction (opening bid $40, all proceeds to benefit the church); if you're interested in bidding remotely, e-mail me at the address associated with my website.
  • And speaking of my website, I finally reestablished links to my complete book list and a bunch of other resources on the Etc. page, like the Annotated Query Letter from Hell.
I think that will do for a blog-brain warm-up. In the words of Jim Anchower, I look forward to rapping at you again soon.**

* Kidding, with great love and understanding, since I am always, always Editor Who Should Be Reading a Manuscript Rather Than Writing This Blog or Facebook.
** Or in the words of Smoove B, I have missed you, my one true blog reader, and I will soon break it down with you again. Damn.

Welcome, SLJ Readers! + Next Kidlit Drinks Night

If you're coming here for the first time because of Betsy's kind article in School Library Journal, thank you for stopping by! I appreciate the time and attention. I'm a senior editor at Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, where I edit and publish a wide range of books, and I've also been a blogger here at Brooklyn Arden since 2005 -- sometimes about personal stuff, sometimes work or kidlit or writing stuff, sometimes recipes, sometimes nonsense. I also have a website where many of my past talks for writers are archived, at www.cherylklein.com, plus I Twitter.

As you'll see from my post on October 1 below, the blog has mostly been on hiatus for the last month while I've been concentrating on work projects and some upcoming speeches I'm giving; but you might be interested in these past posts about children's literature or writing:
(A little aside to longtime blog readers: The green satin cocktail dress I cite as one of my favorite things in life? It's the one I'm wearing in the picture that accompanies the article -- very Mad Men.)

And for everyone: Our next NYC Kidlit Drink Night will be Thursday, November 12, at the Globe Bar on 23rd St., between Lexington and 3rd Ave. -- the very bar where the cover and photos for that article were shot. The festivities will start a little after six. If you'd like to get an e-mail reminder about this or be on the mailing list for future Kidlit Drink Nights, send a message to nyckidlitdrinks at gmail dot com and we'll sign you up.

Thank you again for visiting; please come back; and happy November!

Midmonth Hello

Miss you, darlings. Some quick points:
  • Hooray for Laini Taylor, whose AALB book Lips Touch: Three Times is a National Book Award finalist!
  • I love Glee with the white-hot heat of a thousand suns. No musical ever dared plot twists like the pregnancy storylines; no high school soap opera was ever this funny; no over-the-top comedy ever had musical numbers that rocked as hard as this or were as gorgeous as this. And sometimes those things jar against each other, sure, or against the odd way the writers seem to think every episode must include a non-parodic moral, but for an hour of pure entertainment, I defy you to show me something better on television.
  • The writer and blogger Caleb Crain recently defined "depth" on his blog as "a sense of the complexity of reality." That's precisely what I mean when I say I'm looking for a novel with literary depth: I want fiction that presents the complexity of reality (which could be a funny or romantic reality as well as a tragic one--indeed, most realities are in more than one mode), and writers who can make those realities tangible and meaningful.
  • Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich of the upcoming Eighth-Grade Superzero had a fascinating interview recently on the Writers Against Racism blog. (Francisco X. Stork was featured in September.) I understand the organizers are looking for more contributions from professionally published writers, illustrators, editors, and educators of all races; if you're interested, e-mail Amy Bowllan here with 350-word-or-less answers to the questions each interviewee has been posed.
  • Harry Potter fans will appreciate the cartoon here.
  • Where the Wild Things Are . . . The beginning and end in the real world felt pitch-perfect to me; the middle I was less sure about, because I'm not sure what the filmmakers intended by making the Wild Things so gabby and querulous. (In the book Max appears to leave more or less as soon as the wild rumpus ends; here he hangs around for forty minutes and discovers the compromises of adulthood, which Sendak spares him.) But a lovely film to look at all the way through.
  • And Bright Star rekindled my long-dormant college crush on Keats. Three lovely quotes:
  1. "Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?"
  2. "I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the truth of the imagination."
  3. "several things dove-tailed in my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously -- I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason -- Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration."
And with that I return to being the annoying gadfly to great writers and irritably reaching after fact and reason in their novels. Happy October!

Talking and Writing, Past, Future, and Present

First off: If you missed my below-mentioned Twitter chat with Sara Lewis Holmes today, you can read the full transcript on her blog. It was a great conversation, with lots of meaty stuff about process and character -- thanks to all who stopped by! And you can bop on over to Sara's blog here for a fun writing contest to win a signed copy of Operation Yes.

I had a lovely time at the SCBWI Midsouth conference this past weekend, with lots of good hospitality and wonderful writers. If you were in my “Dimensions of Character” session, the broad structure of that talk (the create-a-character exercise chart, mostly, which I also used in “The Whole Shebang”) is on the web here. If you were in the “Principles of Plot” session, the character-based plot structure described therein is available here, and you should also check out the Essentials of Plot talk on my website. If you wanted to hear more about any of the books I mentioned in my talks, check out the “Behind the Book” tag at the right, which features past essays on several of the titles I’ve edited. And finally, my submissions guidelines are here.

I have a very full schedule of talks and conferences planned for next spring; as of today, here’s the present lineup:
  • Austin, Texas, SCBWI, January 29-30 (the same weekend as SCBWI Midwinter in New York). I’ll be doing one talk by myself and a joint session with Sara Lewis Holmes describing the creation and editing of Operation Yes. “Opportunities” with me and several other editors (including the awesome Lisa Graff) have apparently sold out already, but I’ll be around all weekend and generally do not eat people who try to make conversation with me. Generally.
  • Southern Breeze SCBWI in Atlanta, February 26-28. I don't yet know what I'll be talking about there.
  • Children’s Literature Festival in Warrensburg, Missouri, Sunday, March 14: I’ll be giving the keynote speech at the annual luncheon here—an invitation I received entirely on my own merits, of course, with absolutely no nepotism or personal connection involved.* The talk will be called “Raised by Reading,” and it won’t be a writing talk so much as a personal and children’s books reflection talk.
  • Books by the Bay Multicultural Literary Conference in Mobile, Alabama, March 17-19. This is a new writers’ conference especially for people of color, sponsored by an organization called the Multicultural Literature Advocacy Group, and it will include a summit on improving opportunities for authors of color as well as a writing and submissions workshop. I’ll be giving a plot talk and participating in the summit.
  • Carleton College Convocation speech, April 23. This also won’t be a writing talk so much as a children’s-books-and-the-awesomeness-of-Carleton talk. And I can talk about those two things for a very, very long time.
Then at that point I will dissolve into a small puddle of literary goo. But I’m looking forward to the chance to see so many friends in places I love, and also to go to parts of the country where I’ve never spoken before. I still have one slot available in my speaking schedule for autumn 2010, for a late-October or early November writers’ conference; if anyone is interested in having me then, I can be contacted through the address on my website.

Finally, because I’m now editing a bunch of novels, prepping my speeches for the Western Washington SCBWI retreat, and readying my own book for publication, I’m taking the month of October and the first couple weeks of November off from all online social media. . . . No blogging,** no Twitter, no child_lit, not much Facebook. SQUID responses will also be delayed in this time.*** I’ll miss you, but I shall have much to be thankful for when I’m back in November and all of this is done. Have a great month in the meantime!

* (My grandfather founded the Festival.)
** With the exception of good stuff related to my books.
*** Read: If you’re impatient for an answer, don’t submit until late November.

Twitter Chatter Reminder: Tomorrow!

A reminder: Sara Lewis Holmes and I will be chatting on Twitter tomorrow at noon EST about Operation Yes; follow the hashtag #YESchat to tune in or ask a question. (NOTE: I had the wrong Twitter chat application listed below; you should use Tweetchat.com to join us, not Twitterchat.com. And if you need an FAQ on the subject, visit Inkygirl's Twitter Chats for Writers.) We'll collect your questions through the course of the chat and answer them at the end of our conversation, which will be archived on at least one of our blogs.

(The entire previous paragraph was shamelessly plagiarized from Sara's blog, which tells you an essential truth of the publishing industry: Great authors make their editors look good.)

And speaking of Sara's blog, I wrote an article for the On Our Minds @ Scholastic blog where I described how Read * Write * Believe made me even more interested in and excited to work with her after I’d read the Operation Yes manuscript. I see that already one writer has commented "Oh dear -- an editor might check out my blog in considering my manuscript?", and the answer to that is "Yes" (though I mostly do it when I'm extremely interested in a manuscript and want to know more about the author as a person whom I'd be working with; the quality of the manuscript always, always comes first. And not having a blog is fine too, of course).

Anyway, following on this topic, Sara and I will discuss social media in children's publishing in our chat tomorrow, as well as the writing and editing of Operation Yes, how our theatrical and educational backgrounds helped shape its direction, and various other topics. (We will also continue trash-talking the BBQ of each other’s respective geographical regions.) Lastly, Sara will announce a fun contest related to the book where you can win one of three signed copies, so I hope this should be well worth your time. Hope to see you there!

Would You Rather . . .

. . . have brunch with Daniel Craig or dinner with Daniel Day-Lewis?
. . . stay at this resort in Fiji or this resort in the Alps?
. . . attend an author-editor Twitterchat or go to a Kidlit Drinks Night with cake?

Fantastic news: At least for the last, you can do both! Sara Lewis Holmes, the author of the fabulous, John-Peters-in-Booklist-starred novel Operation Yes, and I will be chatting live on Twitter about her book, the writing and editing process, our favorite Southern foods (North Carolina vs. Kansas City BBQ smackdown!), and sundry other topics. This conversation will take place on Wednesday, September 30, starting at noon EST, live on Twitter.com, via our Twitter feeds @saralewisholmes and @chavelaque. If you'd like to follow the conversation easily, look for the hashtag #YESchat in Twitterchat.com; if you'd like to skip it entirely, block us for the day on Twittersnooze.com. We'll compile a transcript and post it on one of our blogs afterward.

And before then -- tomorrow night, in fact, September 21 -- we are having the aforementioned Kidlit Drink Night, now with cake! Betsy's reportedly making a Boston Cream Pie in honor of our friends in Boston, who are having a Kidlit Pie Night. I'm bringing this Chocolate Cherry Cake. Free homemade cake, people. How can you not come? 6 p.m.-ish in the downstairs room of the Houndstooth Pub on 8th Ave.