Monday, June 30, 2008

street art

Ah yes, I have another project in the making. I've been documenting street art. There's some really cool stuff out there! Stay tuned for a section of my website to be devoted to cool street art finds.

Here's one for you to chew on. I think it's great:

Okay, I've got the first part up - the stuff from brooklyn. I'm going to do the other boroughs too.

I took the above photo tonight on the way home from dinner

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Question of the week: WHATS ON YOUR BOOK SHELF?

Tell us about something you've read; a novel you've picked up, a picture book from your childhood, or any other writing that sticks in your mind at the moment (magazines, articles, street signs)...

Meghan: I'm "reading" WACKY PACKAGES - plus interview with Art Spiegleman. It's a pile of cool stickers from the late 70s that mock packaging design. Think Garbage Pail Kids. Think Awesome. Yeah.

Anna: I've been reading To Kill A Mockingbird for a month or two. I'm in a painting frenzy so I don't have much time for reading, so I pick it up a little bit at a time. I love re-reading books I read when I was a kid, coming across passages that had completely different meaning the first time I read them.

Alvina: I just finished reading an advanced reading copy of HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. It's been getting a TON of buzz, and we chose it for one of my book groups. I found it to be incredibly gripping, and certain elements reminded me of THE GIVER. Sadly, this is actually the only "published" book (it's coming out in September) I've read all year. Well, not counting picture books. I've managed to have time to read some of those! But before this one, the last novel-length book I finished (not counting submissions, of course, that's all I'm ever reading these days) was Joan Didion's THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING. At any rate, I'll stop rambling now.

Elaine: Recently, I read Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and loved it. It's tragic and funny--and Alexie writes with great voice in this semi-autobiographical novel. The book has gotten me interested in Alexie's poetry. I hope to order some of his poetry books when I return home from my vacation in New Mexico. At the moment, I'm reading Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America, a nonfiction book by Steve Almond. This is a good book for anyone who has a serious sweet tooth. Parts of it are really funny.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

new paintings

I've added my new paintings to my new paintings page. They look a lot better than the versions I posted here, which were kind of off color-wise.

I'm about ready to work on a bigger painting, maybe all in pink or B&W with James Dean in it.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

hoping for happily ever after

So instead of working diligently on the illustrations for my new novel, I am in Upstate NY making pink princess cupcakes:
for my niece's birthday party:
I had slight twinges of guilt leaving my studio as I do NEED to get this book done but my niece only turns five once and, honestly, I couldn't take the bathroom renovation anymore. There is only so long I can stand stand the dust, loud noises, and looking at this:

But before I fled, I did do this:
The gold paint is not reproducing well in the photo, but I think the cover might be done. I'm not sure, I'm letting it sit and when I come back I'll decide if it's finished. If I'm lucky, when I get back the bathroom will decide it's finished as well.

Monday, June 23, 2008

STORY TIME - stupid people with bad attitudes

I work at Barnes & Noble as a cashier. A few weeks ago a new cashier started—he promptly walked up to me and said “So I hear you do children’s books.” I nodded. He asked lots of questions. I answered them. I wondered why he was asking so many questions but didn’t bother to ask.

This weekend I heard him mention to another cashier that he was going to art school to illustrate children’s books.

I said “Oh, wow, I didn’t know that’s what you wanted to do!”

He turned to me with an ugly face and said “I didn’t know I was REQUIRED to tell you.”

Shocked and puzzled, I said “Uh, you’re not. Never mind.”

Yes, this was strange. Rude. Whatever label you’d like to put on it. Of course I was stuck working within two feet of this guy ALL DAY. So I attempted again to make conversation. I asked “So, what kind of style do you do?”

He didn’t answer for a while. Then, he did. “I don’t have a style,” he barked. “I’m only 19.”

“Oh, okay,” I responded.

I can’t believe I continued trying to be nice to this guy, but I did. I said “Well I was president of an illustration group. They get together bi-monthly and have editors and art directors come and talk and look at portfolios. When you have a style and get a portfolio together let me know and I'll hook you up. Quite a few members have gotten published that way.”

“NO,” he said. And that’s all he said. Nothing else.

“No? Um… huh?”

The kid walked away so I didn’t prod him further. One of my coworkers was standing next to me the whole time and had witnessed this. I turned to her and said “What was that?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

“Well, I just don’t understand. That was SO rude. Plus, why would he pass on an opportunity like that?”

“He’s stupid,” she said.

Then, the kid walked back to us and said “Oh, so now you’re talking about me? I’m standing right here. That’s rude,” he said.

Hmmm. Rude. I think he had things confused.

“So, what. If I want to illustrate children’s books I have to go through you? Is that how things are? YOU are the last word in children’s books?” he barked.

I was stunned.

My coworker said “No, she was just trying to help!”

I nodded. “I was being nice. New people always need some help.”

“Well, what if I don’t WANT your help,” he said.

Sadly, this fun little interaction was interrupted by a tall, thin woman who stood at the desk. “I’m looking for Meghan McCarthy,” she said. She then proceeded to pull out my book City Hawk out of her bag. I’ve been trying to find you. I’d love it if you’d sign this for me…."

Learn or not learn from this little story as you wish. What I took away from this is that there may be some super talented people out there (and I’m not saying that this kid is one of them) but they are undeserving and they’ll never get anywhere in life because of their bad attitudes.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The sense of self

More things that have been on my mind lately, in addition to preparations for my trip to CA for ALA and a vacation afterwards, are the various amazing stories I've been hearing on Radio Lab.

Radio Lab is my new obsession, an NPR radio show produced by WNYC. It's been recommended by several friends, and is also one of the favorites of This American Life host Ira Glass. And as This American Life is also one of my favorites, I thought I'd check it out.

I've been downloading many of the old podcasts, and one in particular that I found fascinating was the episode "Who Am I?" with discussions about the concept of self. It included a story about how a scientist experimented giving chimps a mirror to see if the chimps would eventually recognize themselves. At first, the chimps thought that their reflection was another chimp, and treated it as such, but after a few minutes, it started to seem that they recognized that it was a reflection of themselves--for example, they would test the reflection with motion, and appeared to be "checking themselves out," etc. But to prove this, the researchers used anesthesia on the chimps, and while they were asleep, painted a red mark on their foreheads. When the chimps woke up and looked at the mirror, seeing their reflection with a red mark on the forehead, they would touch their own foreheads to see what the red mark was, a sure sign that the knew that the reflection was themselves.

I was curious as to when babies are able to recognize themselves in a mirror, and found that it's generally at nine months of age. While doing a little additional research, I also found an article that stated, "Self-recognition has traditionally been considered a sign of superior intelligence, since so far only species such as chimpanzees, dolphins, orangutans and humans have managed to achieve it." To take this a step further, the article is about a robot at Yale that is also able to recognize itself in a mirror.

And here's another article about monkeys who don't seem to know that the monkey in the mirror is a reflection, but also treat the reflection differently than they would treat another monkey.

Anyway, there's so many more incredible stories in that episode and others. The shows on laughter and deception are also fascinating.

And what does this all have to do with children's books? Nothing, I guess. It was just on my mind!


For those of you who were curious, last week's Focus meeting went fairly well, I think. And also, I'm still leaning towards a Mac. I'm tempted by the black, but am still drawn to the white. Hmmm...

I may not be able to post for the next few Mondays because of the aforementioned ALA and vacation, but will do my best!

Question of the week: What's on your mind?

We're keeping this one as open-ended as possible. So--what's been on your mind this week?


I finally finished this painting. Now it can move out of my mind. 

Also, boxes... they're on my mind. This one is almost finished, called Box #1: Hot Title
Alvina: I've been saving for a new computer for almost a year, and had decided on a laptop. But then, PC or Mac? I almost bought a MacBook yesterday, and then had to decide--black or white? But I got cold feet. Anyone have an opinion?

Grace: Did I choose the right color for the tiles?Anna: Just found a fab new handmade jewelry shop on Etsy, love the earrings... internet shopping is the only distraction I am allowed until my book is done next week...

Elaine: Shopping and packing for my trip to New Mexico on Tuesday...and a poetry collection that I've been working on diligently and hope to finish in the next few weeks. (Alvina, my husband just got a MacBook Pro and loves it! His computer is white.)

Libby: My friend Adam (7) is very interested in money, so it was natural to explain royalties to him and that most writers don't make much.He nodded as though that made TOTAL sense, and said with feeling,
"A lot of books are really boring."
I've been unable to get this comment out of my mind.

What's been on your minds?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

When is it ready?

I never used to know (maybe still don't!) when to show drafts to other people. I tend to go through a lot of drafts. As I rewrite, I kind of figure out what I really want to say -- the scenes that aren't important get cut, others get trimmed: sort of like boiling down lots of water and things to make a good soup -- skimming the fat off, reducing the rest to intensify the flavor. There is a certain practicality in showing drafts early -- that way, if they're not marketable, you don't waste your time. But if I show a draft too early, I am too influenced by others. Plus, by the time I DO know what I"m saying, everyone is sick of reading the story!

So, probably for me, the time to show things is when I've taken them as far as I can, when I know what I want to say and have said it as well as I can. At that point, it's vital to know if other people can understand it or not! All comments at that point are helpful. My best friend and I used to just tell each other where we were:
"I'm vulnerable about this, just tell me what you like" (early drafts).
"TELL ME EVERYTHING YOU SEE" (draft almost ready to face the world)

New ideas are like raw eggs -- drop one and it's smashed. But if you drop a boiled egg, nothing much happens, the shell cracks a little, big deal. Though that's not a good analogy because at the end, when I show things, I realize what people aren't getting or what reads oddly and fix it. Can't do that with an egg.

This all came up when I was writing my new novel and rewriting something old to send out in the same week. What about you? When do you show things?

Words in outline: 1638

Words in draft: 3271
(NOTE ON COUNT: I'm doing some rewriting as I go along -- I don't want to end up with a huge mess full of tangents and unusable chapters and even characters like I did last time)

Friday, June 20, 2008

POETRY FRIDAY: The Country of Marriage

My husband and I will be heading to New Mexico next Tuesday for a wedding. We decided to spend several days out there so we could do some sightseeing. We’re even hoping to go hot air ballooning one morning. We’ll be staying at a resort in the Santa Ana Pueblo--where the wedding and reception will be held. New Mexico has been at the top of my list of places to visit since I retired four years ago. I can’t wait to do some exploring out there!

Since I’ll be on vacation next week, I doubt I’ll be posting on Poetry Friday.

Here are the beginning and ending stanzas of a poem by Wendell Berry that I selected in honor of the young couple who will soon be married.

From The Country of Marriage
By Wendell Berry


I dream of you walking at night along the streams
of the country of my birth, warm blooms and the nightsongs,
of birds opening around you as you walk.
You are holding in your body the dark seed of my sleep.


I give you what is unbounded, passing from dark to dark,
containing darkness: a night of rain, an early morning.
I give you the life I have let live for love of you:
a clump of orange-blooming weeds beside the road,
the young orchard waiting in the snow, our own life
that we have planted in this ground, as I
have planted mine in you. I give you my love for all
beautiful and honest women that you gather to yourself
again and again, and satisfy—and this poem,
no more mine than any man’s who has loved a woman.

You can read the rest of the poems here.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have an original acrostic poem about crickets.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Semicolon this week.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

no excuses

There are more times than I like to admit that I look at my past work with twinges of regret. While flaws due to talent, or rather lack of, are disheartening they are in a way more acceptable than the ones that cause me to shake my head. "If I had only been less distracted, had more time," I think to myself, "that book would've have been so much better."

And those are laments I refuse to have about my next book. At New Year's, one of my resolutions was to make my new novel the best work I've ever done.

So I am doing my best to sway the scale in my desired direction. I'm pulling out all the stops for this book, from the writing to the cover (which I am now working on, photo), I am taking pains as I have never been able to before. If time, focus, passion (and possibly production values--crossing my fingers for some really great features, including color illos on the inside) can do it, my book should be an object of person pride--something that epitomizes the best I could possibly do. Or at least something that doesn’t make me cringe.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Two weeks to go

The art for my book Abigail Spells (see paintings from it here and here) is due two weeks from today, so I am feverishly going back over my paintings and finishing everything up. I don't know why I bother trying to finish paintings in the beginning, I always go back at the end and change things. Towards the end of a project like this I do each painting half way and then finish them all off at once.

Anyways, my world is kind of small right now, so not a lot to post about. I am obsessed with color and pattern. Yesterday I went to the bakery next to my apartment to get some bread and the lady behind the counter was dressed just like Abigail! She had a red handkerchief on her head and a blue polka dot shirt (Abigail's favorite pattern). So went home and changed Abigail's shirt once again to look like the bakery lady's... I just can't make up my mind!

Here are some other patterns/color combos I've been using for inspiration:

I just love the color combination in this picture, I try to incorporate it into paintings wherever it seems like it could work:

Monday, June 16, 2008

Focus meeting and Sneak Peak

Our Focus meeting for our Spring 2009 list is this afternoon. I've touched briefly on this before, but I thought I'd take this opportunity to procrastinate from preparing for the meeting by talking a little bit more about what Focus means.

This is how I defined it in an earlier post on Bloomabilities:
For those of you who don't know what Focus is, it's sometimes called Launch, sometimes called Presales. Basically, it's the first formal meeting that we have to introduce our books on a certain list to the sales force. Generally, we have a Focus meeting, then a Presales meeting, and finally the formal Sales meeting.
And so, to set the stage: our Focus meeting is held in the largest of our conference rooms. There is a large table on one end of the room, and additional seating set up as rows of chairs on the other end. I'd say that there are usually about 50 or so people in attendance--generally just the in-house sales and marketing people, which would include Trade Sales, International Sales, Special Sales, Subrights, etc. Occasionally, some of the regional sales reps will attend as well.

In preparation for the meeting, editorial has updated the Title Fact Sheets (these are called Tip Sheets at other publishers, and probably have still more names elsewhere) which are distributed to attendees. Basically, these are what they sound like--they give all the facts for our titles: price, trim size, page count, age group, pub date, etc., a "handle" or tag line, a longer description that will include plot information, selling handles (for example, "Great for Valentine's Day promotions" or "Book has a fun seek-and-find element that lends itself to multiple readings"), reviews and awards for previous books if applicable, and sales from previous books and comparable titles.

Our Marketing department puts together a Power Point slide show, coordinating with Design and Editorial to get the appropriate cover images and interior images.

Our publisher and associate publisher start the meeting with a quick wrap-up of the last season, talking about numbers, successes, books that we shouldn't forget about, and then we go into the new season. Generally, the presentation is ordered according to genre/age group--we do picture books first, then novelty, then middle grade, then young adult. Each editor presents the titles they've edited; we have just 1-2 minutes per title, so we have to be pithy. In addition to quickly introducing the project, touching on the plot, we try to bring in a memorable anecdote that will help get the Sales group interested and excited, remember the book, and then be able to pitch the book themselves to our accounts.

In addition to introducing the books to our Sales group, Focus meeting is also an opportunity for us to get feedback from the larger Sales group on everything from format, covers, prices, and more. Sometimes the feedback is welcome and useful, but sometimes it can be frustrating if we get negative feedback on something that may be too late or too difficult to change. And of course the reaction we're always hoping for is that at the end of the meeting everyone applauds and says, "What a strong list!" and seems excited to start selling.

Let's hope that's the reaction we get this afternoon.

And now, to give you a sneak peak, here are the books I'll be presenting (with their tag lines!):

Picture Books:

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
In this beautifully illustrated environmental story by Peter Brown, a young boy tends to a meager garden which blossoms and spreads across the city.

When the Moon Forgot by Jimmy Liao
An evocative, gorgeously-illustrated story about an unusual friendship between a boy and the moon, who has forgotten to return to the sky, by world-renowned illustrator Jimmy Liao.

Sergio Saves the Game by Edel Rodriguez
Sergio, the adorable penguin who won our hearts in Sergio Makes a Splash, returns with a story about soccer, determination, and discovering one's true talents.

Middle Grade:

Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez
A heartwarming debut middle grade novel about a young Latina girl navigating growing pains in her South Texan city.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (YAY!)
A new middle grade novel that crosses fantasy with Chinese folklore in a wondrous story of adventure, devotion, and friendship, from the creator of the beloved Year of the Dog.

Young Adult:

Geektastic edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci
Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci have united in geekdom to edit a collection of short stories from some of the greatest names (and geeks) in YA literature. Get your geek on!

Fade to Blue by Sean Beaudoin
An intriguing, smart, and satisfying YA mystery in the tradition of M.T. Anderson's Feed and Ned Vizzini's Be More Chill. This is Donnie Darko meets Ghost World.


The Postcard by Tony Abbott
The Devouring by Simon Holt (the hardcover is pubbing this Fall)

And now, back to working on my presentations!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Prize Winner!

Congrats to chatrabbitt (Liz?), the winner of the question of the week, "What's on your desk?" contest!

The correct order of the desks were:


Please e-mail with your address, choice of Grace's book and personalization! Thanks all for playing!

Question of the week: HOW ARE YOU PROCRASTINATING?

This week's Question of the Week is "How are you procrastinating?"

We all do it, come on, fess up! How are you procrastinating this week? Add your answer to the comments...

Anna: By watching episodes of Clean House. Sometimes I need a little Niecy Nash.

Grace: I keep going to Craigslist and looking at vespas for sale. And I don't even have the motorcycle license one needs to ride or own one!

Elaine: I’m only dabbling in major cleaning projects and gardening around my house at the moment--telling myself that “I can work on that tomorrow.” Instead, I’ve been relaxing in the sun in hopes of getting a little color before we head for New Mexico on June 24th. I’ve also wasted time when the weather was beastly playing solitaire on my computer in my air-conditioned office.

Meghan: stabbing paint tubes, painting Elvis, eating cheese doodles, taking pictures of my bruises, watching Style Wars, taking photographs of graffiti, going to work.

Alvina: By shopping on, and watching reality television, especially Top Chef and Jon & Kate Plus Eight.

Friday, June 13, 2008


I forgot to announce that my new book came out this week! Check it out. I'm making a webpage for it here:

POETRY FRIDAY: A Poem by Richard Brautigan

Here’s a poem I found at Poetry 180 yesterday. I couldn’t resist posting it for Poetry Friday this week. Maybe we’d all be A students if we could study the subjects we love! I know I always got the best grades in the subjects (chemistry, genetics, geology) that interested me. FYI: Blonde girls were not one of the subjects in which I excelled.

Gee, You’re So Beautiful That It’s Starting to Rain
by Richard Brautigan

Oh, Marcia,
I want your long blonde beauty

to be taught in high school,
so kids will learn that God
lives like music in the skin
and sounds like a sunshine harpsichord.

You can read the rest of the poem here.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have three original poems about the sounds of summer.

Cloudscome has the Poetry Friday Roundup at A Wrung Sponge.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


I meant to post this a while ago, but forgot. However, my fusion friend Paula Yoo just sent me the link again:


It is a very, very neat project--photographic recreations of children's drawings from Korea. I completely heart it...and I want to get some of the photos for my wall.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Question of the Week--PRIZE!!!

We've decided to make the Question of the Week a contest! Guess whose desk is whose correctly and you can win a free book!

We'll draw from the correct entries this SUNDAY and whoever wins will get a personalized autographed copy of Grace's book, The Year of the Rat (if you already have it, Grace is happy to let you choose a different one from her collection). Enter as many times as you like in the comment section of our Question of the Week post.

the story of paint

I don't know about the rest of the illustrators in the world, but I get very attached to my paint. I've used the same brand for the last 13 years and I love it. I know how it will mix and blend and dry.

So, I got very upset when my local art store stopped carrying it. Worse yet, I couldn't order it, couldn't find it online...nothing! Had I imagined Turner Design Gouache into existence? Finally, after hours of searching I found a phone number and address of the manufacturing company, located in NYC.

Which began a series of somewhat sketchy phone calls. Yes, they could sell me the paint, a woman with a strong accent Asian accent said to me. I could send her an e-mail, but she wouldn't be able to reply because she didn't have Internet access (?). It would be best if I came to pick the paint up in person. I could leave the payment with the guy in front and he'd give me the package. Oh, and could I pay in cash?

What was this, drugs? I was going to NYC anyway, so even though I thought it was odd, I said yes to all of her requests. Even with fears of some sort of random police paint bust.

The truth was, I didn't care. I wanted my paint. I needed it. Okay, maybe this paint IS some kind of drug...

But I got it. The actual exchange turned out to be fairly anti-climatic, the woman was actually a quite friendly Thai artist living in a nice condo building. The only unexpected thing was that my paint weighed about 20 pounds. I had been so worried about the paint's future availability that perhaps I overbought a bit. Oh well, at least I know it will be a while before I have to go through this again!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


- Because of a complaint I've removed this post (I guess some aren't fans of gory pictures. I didn't think they were that bad but I guess I was wrong - my apologies)

To read the post go here - - complete with fun pictures.

... I don't know, maybe I should have become a doctor. I like gross stuff.

Abigail close-up part two

Continued from this post last week, here are the final stages of Abigail's spelling bee close-up.... does she look frozen in fear?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Question of the week

Just a reminder to check out our newly revived question of the week two posts down--I added my picture late, but won't reveal which one it is for those of you who haven't tried to guess yet.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

What I Like

While at the SCBWI Austin conference, I had a one-on-one critique with a woman who, as she was sitting down, said quickly, "I know what I wrote isn't your thing, but they said you had a slot open in your schedule and I felt like I had to grab it!"

She had written a paranormal YA novel, and I had actually quite liked what I had read of it (I think we had 10 pages submitted to us).

"Why would you think this wasn't my thing?" I asked.

"Well, I don't know, I've read some of your blog and have seen the kinds of things you've edited..."

Well, that was eye-opening. I don't want my blog to give in inaccurate picture of what I like, so I thought I'd write a post to expand on this subject (restricted to novels for this post) based on the books I liked to read as a child. Because although what I've acquired and edited in the past is certainly indicative of my tastes, there are so many other types of books that either I've acquired but haven't been published yet, and still more that I'm open to but just haven't acquired anything in that genre. The thing is, I guess it's a bit of a cycle--I tend to get submissions in a similar vein to the books I've acquired.

Two books that I've acquired that stand apart from the rest of my list are:

1) The Devouring by Simon Holt, the first in a YA horror series (we've signed up three books so far) due out this Fall. The Devouring is about a teenage girl, Reggie, who loves all things horror--she even works at a mystery/horror bookstore. While unpacking a shipment of used books, Reggie comes across a mysterious journal which describes evil creatures called Vours who can inhabit the bodies of fearful humans on Sorry Night, the eve of the Winter Solstice. Of course, she thinks this is just a harmless scary story, but when her younger brother Henry begins to act strangely, Reggie realizes that there’s some truth behind the journal, and needs to take on the Vours in order to save her brother. (by the way, if this sounds like your kind of thing, you can sign up for the mailing list here.)

2) Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey (I mentioned this in my last post). This was just posted in Publisher's Lunch:
Alvina Ling at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers bought North American and U.K. rights to debut author Karen Healey's Guardian of the Dead, a YA adventure novel about a teen who taps into a magical Maori world and races to prevent the destruction of her homeland in New Zealand. Barry Goldblatt at Barry Goldblatt Literary was the agent.
I remember Barry called me up and asked, "Do you like urban fantasy?"--I'm glad he asked rather than assume it wasn't my thing--I totally love it!

Both of these two books have horror elements. I loved horror as a kid. Stephen King was one of my favorite authors--I read every single book he had ever written by the time I was 12. One of my all-time favorite stories is the novella The Body (which was adapted into the movie Stand By Me) in his Different Seasons collection. I also loved loved LOVED Lois Duncan, especially Killing Mr. Griffin. I read every book by her in my local library as well. I read most of V.C. Andrews as well.

What else did I love? I loved mysteries. I loved the Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Belden, Encyclopedia Brown, Phyllis A. Whitney, and especially The Three Investigators.

I loved fantasy and science fiction: Edward Eager, The Chronicles of Narnia, Piers Anthony's Xanth books, Anne McCaffrey's Dragon books, Terry Brooks's Sword of Shannara, Orson Scott Card's Ender series, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle and Time series, Susan Cooper.

I loved animals books: Black Stallion and Black Beauty, Watership Down, Rabbit Hill, Incredible Journey, Where the Red Fern Grows, Rascal, Bambi, Socks, Charlotte's Web.

I loved the commercial: Choose Your Own Adventure, Cheerleaders series (not the R.L. Stine horror series, but YA books about a HS cheerleading team), some Silhouette romances, etc.

I loved the contemporary: Judy Blume, Betsy Byars, Beverly Cleary, Patricia Hermes (You Shouldn't Have to Say Good-bye), Susan Beth Pfeffer (Kid Power), Robert Cormier, S.E. Hinton, Cynthia Voigt, Katherine Paterson.

And, of course, I loved classics (which perhaps is more obvious). I read all the Louisa May Alcott books (my favorites were Little Women and Jack and Jill), all of the L.M. Montgomery books (I especially loved the Emily books), the Great Brain series, Noel Streatfeild's books, A Little Princess, E. Nesbit, Tom Sawyer, etc. etc.

And now I'm realizing that this might not have been helpful after all, because basically I loved almost every genre. As a child, I read anything I could get my hands on, including my brothers' comic books (X-Men) and graphic novels (Sandman). But I hope this serves the purpose of having people not dismiss a submission for me based on genre. Of course my tastes have continued to change over the years and as an adult (I read a lot of narrative nonfiction now, for example), but I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for books that remind me of the books I loved as a child. As an editor, I'm still open to every category. However, what I've come to realize over the years is that I'm more drawn to literary writing than commercial, and that voice is all important to me--there are probably a few books listed above that I wouldn't acquire if they crossed my desk now.

And I know some of you are thinking, "But you don't accept unsolicited manuscripts, so what good does this do me?"--well, I've noticed that many agents are asking their clients if there are any editors they would like to submit to, and so if you're in that boat and weren't sure if your manuscript would be right for me, I hope this helps clear things up a bit.

At any rate, this was a fun exercise--I remembered a few books that I hadn't thought about in a long time. What are some of your forgotten favorites?

Question of the Week: WHAT'S ON YOUR DESK?

We're bringing back the Question of the Week! This week the question is "What's on your desk?" Can you guess whose desk is whose?

(The rock is from Jane Austen's garden, the card is from an editor, and the monitor is from Anna. I admit that I put a pad of paper containing my notes on the floor, and covered up some notes from children, too.)

Saturday, June 07, 2008


Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t posted in awhile. This begins a new series of posts for me, and I do mean series.

I've started another novel, and I’m going to post each week about something that’s come up in the writing process. This week: two sayings about jumping -- jumping horses -- that work just as well for writing. Riding up to a jump can be un-nerving, and some advise this:

“Throw your heart over first and the rest will follow.”

One of my riding teachers put it more bluntly:

“When you’re riding up to a jump, you have to be so determined that if a truck got in your way, you’d jump over it.”

That's the attitude I need. For me, anyway, there are always reasons NOT to start a novel. There are the reasons that are permanent fixtures in most writers' minds: it may never sell, I may be wasting my time, it may not be any good, what if I run out of money, I miss my friends -- blah blah blah. And there are the excuses that come up sometimes: I’m tired, it’s not a good day, I’m at _____’s house -- I can’t write here. Also, blah blah blah.

The fact is that for me, the best way to finish a novel is to work on it every day, no matter what. I kept putting my last novel aside for various reasons, some practical, some just dumb, and every time I came back to it, it had become a different book! The only way to have that kind of determination is to believe in the book and love it enough to push all those reasons aside -- and not care what they, the gate-keepers, think of the idea, either. Writing and wondering about them doesn't work for me (I did that last time, too).

This time, I’m writing the kind of novel I like to read myself, and I"m writing it every day, no matter what. I'll do that, and try my hardest, too (no typing not writing) until September. I can make my money last until then even if I don't sell anything. I have have a few other mss. out there, and if they haven't sold by September, I’ll borrow money and look for a job....and keep writing the novel until it's done.

In the meantime, I’ll canter steadily-- not gallop -- up to the jump, DETERMINED to go over it, concentrating completely, but riding with a pretty long loose rein, just short enough to control the energy.

Outline: 1613 words
Novel itself: 729

Friday, June 06, 2008

POETRY FRIDAY: A Poem by Marge Piercy

I’m not really a “summer” person. I truly dislike the heat and humidity. They sap me of all my energy. But I do love days in June when it seems that every flower on the planet is beginning to bloom, when butterflies flit around on petalled wings, when I can sit outside on the lounge, read, and listen to birds singing and the breeze brushing by leaves in the silver maple in my backyard.

Here's a poem for a June Friday for you:

More Than Enough
By Marge Piercy

The first lily of June opens its red mouth.
All over the sand road where we walk
multiflora rose climbs trees cascading
white or pink blossoms, simple, intense
the scene drifting like colored mist.

The arrowhead is spreading its creamy
clumps of flower and the blackberries
are blooming in the thickets. Season of
joy for the bee.

You can read the rest of the poem here.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have a review of Kristine O’Connell George’s Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems.

Sarah Reinhard has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Janet Wong

A couple of weeks ago I got to see my friend, the indomitable Janet Wong speak at the North Shore Reading Council. To me, indomitable is the perfect adjective to descibe Janet. Within an hour of conversation, she had convinced:

-me to write The Year of the Tiger
-me create product designs and sell them on my website
-Elaine to get her poetry published
-and a visiting friend to illustrate picturebooks

And she hadn't even started her formal presentation yet!

Which, as always, was great. Janet is one of those speakers that doesn't need a formal speech prepared or ordered slides--she is one of the few authors I know who can just stand,speak and be completely engaging and fun. She and her talk is much like her poetry-- direct, thoughtful, intelligent, sometimes sad,and sometimes hilarious but at all times mesmerizing.

*And you can meet Janet in NYC, at the event below! Come, I guarantee by the time she has finished speaking, you will be convinced into starting your own children's book empire...

See me in NYC!

Panel: Fusion Stories: Next-Gen Asian American Books for Young Readers
On Thursday, June 5, 7pm
@ The Workshop
16 West 32nd Street, 10th Floor
(btwn Broadway & 5th Avenue)

Parents and teachers, having trouble finding Young Adult novels that speak to you and your kids? Fusion Stories is a new website that aims to tell Asian American stories for this generation of young readers. These aren't traditional tales set in Asia or stories of hard-scrabbling immigrants. Instead, Fusion Stories offers fun, relatable stories about teen-dating, growing up biracial, eyelid surgery, and just feeling like you don't fit in. Fusion novelists Grace Lin, An Na, Janet Wong and David Yoo talk about the next generation of young adult literature featuring Asian American characters. Bring your kids for treats from the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory!

Grace Lin is the author and illustrator of Year of The Dog (Little, Brown Young Readers, 2005) and over a dozen books such as The Ugly Vegetables (Charlesbridge Publishing, 1999) and Dim Sum For Everyone! (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2001). While Grace's books cover the Asian-American experience, she believes that "books erase bias, they make the uncommon everyday, and the mundane exotic. A book makes all cultures universal." Year of The Rat (Little, Brown Young Readers) continues the story of Grace, a Taiwanese American girl, as she navigates the challenges of growing up "different" in an upstate New York community.

An Na was born in Korea and grew up in Southern California. She is the author Wait For Me (Penguin, 2006) and A Step From Heaven (Penguin, 2001), a Michael L. Printz Award winner and National Book Award Finalist. In her latest, The Fold (Penguin, 2008), Joyce Kang never felt pretty enough especially when compared to her older sister, but when her plastic surgery crazed aunt offers her the chance of a lifetime - to change her eyes forever - Joyce must decide what she believes is beautiful.

Janet Wong is the author of eighteen books for children, mainly picture books and poetry collections, including The Dumpster Diver (Candlewick Press, 2007) and TWIST: Yoga Poems (McElderry/Simon and Schuster, 2007). A former lawyer, she chose to write because she wanted to "do something important - and couldn't think of anything more important than working with children." In Minn and Jakes Almost Terrible Summer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008), we learn that Jake has a Korean grandmother, which makes him one-quarter Korean, or "Quarpa," as he likes to call it.

David Yoo is the author of Girls For Breakfast (Random House, 2005), which was named a NYPL Best Book for Teens and a Booksense Pick, and Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before (Hyperion, Sept 2008). In Stop Me a resigned loser Albert Kim captures the affection of his dream girl Mia, only to get bumped to the sidelines when Mia's uber-popular ex, Ryan, gets cancer. David teaches adult fiction workshops at the Gotham Writers Workshop and writes a monthly column in Korean Journal.

Co-sponsored by the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory

$5 suggested donation; open to the public

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Another Abigail painting in progress

Still painting away on the illustrations for Abigail Spells, here is another preview of one of the paintings coming together...

This is the initial sketch, Abigail is on stage at a greatly anticipated spelling bee:

First I put down some washes to establish the color palette:

Next I started layering the color on her face and in the background:

Then I spent some time building up her *blush*:

Continued next week!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

My children's book weekend in pictures

I had a busy weekend, so I'll try to keep it brief.

Friday night was a Sex and the City movie party at the fahhhbulous Jenny Han's apartment. It wasn't exactly a children's book-related event (although, remember Carrie's children's book idea?), but as several children's book authors were in attendance, I thought it was worth mentioning.

We were told to come dressed as one of the characters, so I went as Charlotte York (in a hand-me-down dress from Grace). I won runner-up for best dressed, and won a pack of Post-its:Here is token male Bennett Madison as Annabelle Bronstein, and Miss Jenny Han, also as Charlotte York:
Ghetto-fabulous Carrie and her prize, a copy of He's Just Not That Into You:A note I left on Jenny's computer:
And some of the girls (including Longstocking Siobhan Vivian) at the theater. A great time was had by all (Charlotte, Charlotte, Samantha, and Miranda):
And in case you're curious, I enjoyed the movie. It wasn't Oscar material, but it made me laugh and it made me cry. I miss those ladies.


Saturday I was at agent extraordinaire Barry Goldblatt's apartment for a BBQ in honor of one of his newest clients, and the author of my most recent acquisition, so new that it hasn't even been listed in Pub Lunch yet, Karen Healey. Her debut YA novel (Guardian of the Dead) is an innovative urban fantasy set in her native New Zealand, steeped in Maori lore. It's awesome--stay tuned for more info in the future. Barry and I wrapped up the deal just in time for Karen's visit to the US--it was great to meet her and celebrate!
It was also great to meet some of the contributors to the upcoming YA short story collection (pubbing next Spring) Geektastic edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci. Holly was there, and I also got to meet Libba Bray (of course), Cassandra Clare, and Scott Westerfeld (sorry, no more pics).


And finally, gorgeous Sunday was spent up in Mystic for another BRG gathering. We went for a nice long walk to the Farmer's market:
Then had a belated birthday tea party celebration for Grace (Anna made a fantastic cheesecake): There was even the surprise arrival of Meghan, who I know hates being in pictures so I'll do her the favor of not posting one of her here.

Grace, of course, made cupcakes for the occasion--vanilla with chocolate ganache frosting. Yummy.What goodies will this week bring?