Saturday, May 30, 2009

I Heart Albert Borris, Crash Into Me and a Very Good Cause

One of the most gratifying parts about this debut year has been the support and friendship of other debut authors - and some seasoned ones, too, such as the indomitable Cynthia Leitich Smith, who is such a constant champion of us all. Some days I don't know what I'd do without my 2k9ers. Most days, in fact.

But one of us needs your support. Albert Borris has written the incredibly gripping Crash into Me, which debuts in July from Simon Pulse. Albert and I are both repped by ABLA and for awhile shared an agent. He's advised me numerous times when I've been waffling about what I should do about this or that. (I'm a huge waffler, if you haven't guessed by now) He's funny and wry and sharp and knows what it's like to walk that dark side and he writes about that so very poignantly in this debut YA. He also, unfortunately, suffered a massive stroke in December and although he has bounced back in many ways, his speech has been severely affected. His family is raising money for the treatment "camp" in Chicago this summer so that Albert can be fully and completely back into our lives.

I'd tell you the entire story and where and how you can donate to this cause, but my friend Janet Fox (Faithful, Puffin, 2010) has just posted quite eloquently, so I will defer to her and ask that you please click on the link below and read more. And that you help Albert however you can.

Til next time...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

In Which I Recount the Publication Journey

So this publication thing. It has been a wild and woolly journey, that's for sure. This week, I took another big step because I arranged for my launch party/event (I'm never quite sure what to call it; party makes me think of beer and chips or possibly pin the tail on the donkey and those little party hats with the rubber chin straps... neither of which will mostly likely be part of this event) at my local Barnes and Noble on September 12th at 2 PM! In any case, the arranging had the singular effect of making this all seem VERY REAL. As does the fact that the galleys -otherwise known as ARC's (advanced reading copies) are circulating around and will also be available at Book Expo in NYC this week!

(Yes! If you are in NYC, stop by the Sourcebooks booth and see if you can snag one. Tell them how much you love me. How important I have been in your life. How I deserve sparkly flying llamas and a parade. HowI pulled you from in front of that speeding train and saved you from certain doom. That Joy Preble, you will tell them. Without her, I would be a sniveling pile of snot. Or something like that)

Do not let anyone know that it has also occurred to me that the galleys are circulating and therefore people are reading Dreaming Anastasia and are either liking it or not and it is totally out of my control and why the hell didn't someone explain that ultimately this is what happens at the end of this long trail instead of letting me realize it in one whooshing moment of neurotic angst? People. are. reading. the. book. oh oh!

But I digress. Back to the journey thing. If you are reading this and on the journey yourself, or if you are reading this and are wishing to be on it, or if you are just thinking hmm, some random facts that I've been mulling:

Since I finished the first draft of what would eventually be titled Dreaming Anastasia in the fall of 2005, here are some things that have happened:
  • my critique group read various versions of various chapters so many times they lost track.
  • I queried agents and editors and got rejected. I repeated that a number of times.
  • I found a great group of like-minded folks on Verla Kay's Blueboards. Some have become life long friends.
  • I got yanked out of the slush pile in 2006 by Michelle Andelman, then of Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
  • I danced the dance of joy!
  • I revised and revised and revised. And then I revised again.
  • Michelle sold my book to Lyron Bennett at Sourcebooks in 2007.
  • I waited a long time and in the mean time wrote another book and started two or three othere.
  • I revised some more.
  • I learned that Dreaming Anastasia wouldn't be released until 2009.
  • I joined the absolutely wonderful Class of 2k9. Made some more amazing writer friends.
  • I went to my first national SCBWI conference and met some of the above amazing friends.
  • I waited some more.
  • Hurricane Ike hit Houston. At that same exact moment, Michelle changed jobs and I was adopted by the amazing and fanatabulous cowgirl agent Jen Rofe, also of ABLA. It was hard to talk to her the first week, since even my cell phone didn't work after the hurricane.
  • I revised some more.
  • I started getting to read the ARC's of many amazing 2k9 books. I felt honored to be among such amazing writers!!
  • I got to have breakfast with Jen in Vegas. We ate waffles.
  • I arrived at copy edits and got a cover!
  • My editor at Sourcebooks left. But before I could panic, I got a new editor, Dan Ehrenhaft, which was also exciting because he also writes YA and he's worked on series such as Gossip Girl, which got me all swoony with excitement.
  • My cover got revised. Swoon-worthy hero Ethan got added!
  • ARC's arrived. I was assigned my Sourcebooks publicist. He is awesome!!
  • I finally sent in my profile to the amazing Cynthea Liu and Snoop at Authors Now, where you can find me and many other amazing debut authors and to which I will be posting a link very soon! (as soon as I go to the three graduation parties I need to attend during the next um, 48 hours)
  • It occurred to me that I'm an author and I have a book coming out.

So - if you add it up... well, it's a long time to keep dreaming. I fully admit that my fellow writers mentioned above have kept me sane. The ups and downs of all the above can't really be expressed in those bullet points. And honestly, when you're a little, um, older, you are fully aware that things don't always go your way and that things like, say, hurricanes, bear down on you just as your agent leaves you and thrust you into darkness and you - because you are older and wiser - realize that things might not actually be okay, even if eventually they turn out fine. If I'd achieved this at 22, I might have had a different stand on the whole issue. But that, I suppose is neither here nor there.

So what am I thinking right this second? Keep dreaming! Whatever it is you hope to achieve, you are neither too young nor too old. If others are not supportive, screw 'em. People will not always be what you want them to be. It's not their dream, it's yours. You will tell people you have a book coming out and they will say things like, "Oh. I had to write some research when I was getting my doctorate." And then they will pause, right there in the canned fruit aisle at Kroger's and say, "You know what would be great? If you joined the book club so and so is starting because she just got laid off. I bet you'd enjoy that." And you will clutch your can of peaches and realize that said person wants you to chit chat about Marley and Me and drink mojitos and has no interest whatsoever in your YA contemporary fantasy. So be it. Because if one thing has happened, I have learned that I have some amazing friends who have been pulling for me and who got so excited about the aforementioned launch event that I cried yesterday because I wasn't sure how to deal with so much love from so many folks all at once.

Someone said it's the journey, not the destination. Well, today I think it's both. The journey has been part of the fun. But the destination - well - okay, it looks pretty exciting too.

Til next time...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bird by Bird

Reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. Yes, I should have read it before. I might have even nodded my head sagely a few times when people mentioned it, wrongly indicating that I'd done so , too. But I hadn't. And let me say for the record, I wish I had.

Lamott is funny, funny - and wise and honest. An entire chapter on professional jealousy - which we all should be honest enough to admit we feel except we never do because it makes us look grim and small and really really mean. Because honestly, who wants to be known as the person who resents that another colleague just got sparkly flying llamas while you, well, didn't? Lamott is honest enough to admit that sometimes we'd just like the llama receiver's head to explode... just a tiny bit to make us feel better.

She's also big on the need for honesty in writing and I'm with her there, too. Have had some interesting arguments with English colleagues on this very subject in fact. "If they can't think of anything to write about" I've heard a teacher say, "then I tell them to just make something up." And I stand there thinking, well, if it's fiction they're writing, that's really stellar advice. But if I'm teaching them, say, memoir or personal narrative, isn't that a bit, um, wrong? Isn't that how we got into that whole James Frey having to admit he just flat made crap up on Oprah mess?

It's at those moments that the writer part of me and the school employee part of me sort of collide and my head spins...

Til next time...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

I've got my Dreaming Anastasia ARC's

ARC stands for advanced reading copy. As in - it's almost a book! As in wow, look what was in a Fed Ex bag at my front door last night, which I tripped over as we were on our way out to see Star Trek and buy a new tv since ours chose yestereday to die an honorable death!
Did you ever see the old Steve Martin film "The Jerk"? When he runs out all excited yelling, "The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here!" because his name is in it and he's so thrilled?
Well this is like that! Only better.

Plus my darling hot, swoony Ethan is now on the cover on the left, all blue eyed and hunky! Whoa momma!

Til next time...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Prom Time

Chaperoned the prom last night. Most people go to one or two proms in a life time, possibly a couple of sorority formals or maybe a cotillion or two. That's it. High school teachers, though, we attend a lot of proms!

Life may come and go, swine flu attack and then ebb (looks like the aporkalypse isn't gonna fell us after all and we'll have to just stick to a slower demise by the dying economy until the next craziness leaps up and pokes us in our collective assi), but the prom - it stays pretty much the same as you might remember it if you're beyond prom age. Fabulous dresses and tuxes and make up and limos for some. Dinners out and ice sculptures and a buffet that is mostly consumed by the chaperones. ( loved the mini cheesecakes and the mini empanadas; less fond of the meatballs; didn't try the carved steamship round of roast beef) Lots of picture taking and dancing; even the requisite crowning of the prom king and queen. Tons of angst and emotion and yes, the usual amount of expectation about after parties and what may or may not occur on this night of nights. It's heart-achingly sweet to watch. Everything on the cusp for them - they're about to leave the nest and it shows in every single way even when they think it doesn't. (Yes, some kids are always hyper-sophisticated and this is really small potatoes for them. Some don't want to go; it's not their thing. But most - even if they won't admit it - really like this party in their honor, even if they only stay for the photo op and go on to the after party before the real event has barely begun. It still is a demarkation of sorts. Even if it's like the menu item you never order. You know it's there.)

I barely remember my own prom. Went with my high school boyfriend at the time - the same one I unceremoniously broke up with the following new year's eve because it was time to move on. I seem to remember that we had a live band not a DJ. We didn't stay long. We were more interested in going out afterward to dinner and to Second City. Different place. Different times. We drove downtown with the other people in our group, riding in my date's father's Buick. I like to joke that I didn't ride in a limo until my father's funeral, and honestly, it's true. But i still have the little souvenier booklet they gave out. And the pictures of me in my long floral dress and him in his tux. I was not a big school event girl back then. Honestly, I mostly despised high school and could hardly wait to leave. But even with that, I'm glad I went.

Son of mine had a much more high brow prom. Party bus and photo ops and a prom group with parental organization that topped D Day's. Very fancy restaurant meal and a girl in his class had actually won a contest from Seventeen Magazine and so Nick Lachay (as in Nick and Jessica, a big deal back in 2004) actually came and sang at their prom! Crazy, eh?

So since I'm feeling all promish and sentimental today, please, please, comment and tell me your own prom memories. Good, bad, ugly... I'm in the mood.

Til next time...