Tuesday, June 26, 2012

more process

More sketch to final paintings for Starry River of the Sky:

small sketch

final painting--sketch on side to show scale!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

"The Dirty Cowboy" Banned from Libraries in a School District in Pennsylvania

Yesterday, I wrote a post for Jonathan Turley’s blog about the banning of Amy Timberlake’s book The Dirty Cowboy from elementary school libraries in the Annville-Cleona School District in Pennsylvania. Earlier this year, the parents of a kindergarten child complained about Adam Rex’s illustrations in the book. The parents felt that Adam Rex’s illustrations of the cowboy’s partial nudity in the book were “pornographic” and wanted it banned. After the parents made the complaint, the district’s book review committee voted 5-1 to remove the book. In April, the school board agreed with the parents and voted unanimously to remove the book from school libraries in the district.

School District Bans 'The Dirty Cowboy' Book

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"An exciting time to be an author!"

I've never been to BEA, though I've always wanted to. I really wish I had gone this year because  Alvina spoke about my new book,  Starry River of the Sky at the middle grade "book buzz":

Didn't she do a great job? I hope people were excited about the book!

But I also was really interested in BEA because I know that the publishing world is changing. For me, these changes fill me with apprehension and I worry about what the future will bring.

However, my friend Janet Wong, who did go to BEA, has a different viewpoint. When Janet's early poetry collections Good Luck Gold  and Behind the Wheel: Poems about Driving  (originally published by Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster) went out of print, she got the rights back and created e-book and paperback versions. And when I asked Janet about her BEA experience, she said, “This is an exciting time to be an author!”

I was so intrigued that I asked Janet to share some of her "takeaway thoughts" from the conference. I thought they would be interesting for anyone interested in self-publishing e-books (which might be all of us in the future!).

Here are Janet's BEA notes:

 1) Plan an e-book at the same time as your print book. An e-book edition of your print book might be released later; you want your text and illustrations to work without the need for too much tinkering. For poetry, keep the Kindle screen in mind when breaking your lines; for picture books, make illustrations vertical or square. (Design for the “worst machine out there”; lots of kids will have hand-me-down devices.)

 2) Authors need to think about metadata; discoverability is key. When planning a new book, spend a couple of hours at Google Adwords or Market Samurai. (If you don’t know what metadata means, Market Samurai has some short online videos that explain it.) Knowing the most frequently searched keywords might give your book an additional new direction, more structure, and a better title.

 3) Think of an e-book as a “continuing work-in-progress.” One of the great things about e-books is that you can “play” with your book even after it’s published. If you are the publisher, try different prices and try to measure the effects on sales. Insert new links into the back matter to make readers aware of new books or new related blogs or sites. Parts of your text can be reworked at any time. Audio features can be added. E-books are still in an experimental phase; we shouldn’t be afraid to treat them like experiments!

 4) Social Media and Networking Tips: Pinterest is where it’s at. Put up a Pinterest board for each character in your book or post photos related to your book’s setting.

 5) Our business is changing so rapidly . . . this is a very exciting time to be an author. Don’t be afraid of the changes--have fun!

 Thank you, Janet!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Singapore and BEA

I've been MIA again lately--and I apologize, but my posting will be sporadic until August, most likely.

Two weeks ago I was in Singapore for the Asian Festival for Children's Content. I had never been to Singapore, and was excited to go, mainly because I had heard so many incredible things about the food there! I was, of course, also looking forward to the conference, and meeting friends I only knew through blogs and Twitter, like Tarie Sabido, who blogs at Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind, and is a huge fan of Grace Lin's work. Tarie and I arranged to have dinner my first night in Singapore. I had a bit of a hellish trip over--a delayed flight to London resulted in a mixed connection, and I ended up having to hang out at Heathrow for over nine hours. All was not lost, though, as I got a much-needed mani/pedi while I waited, and still made it to Singapore in time to check in, unpack, and meet Tarie for dinner.

I had been told that I HAD to have a dish called "chicken rice" while there, and so Tarie and I walked over to the nearest food centre, Makansutra Glutton's Bay. There are these food centres all over Singapore, and they're basically outdoor food courts with all kinds of food. We found chicken rice, which is basically rice cooked in a special chicken broth with chicken. It's a very simple, tasty dish. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.
chicken rice!

Tarie and me

The next morning Tarie and I met to head over to the festival together. Leonard Marcus gave the morning's keynote, and then there were several breakout sessions. I attended one on translation, and one on the Filipino Book Market--I found both to be fascinating.

In the afternoon, Sarah Odedina, Managing Director of Hot Key Books in the UK, and I spoke together about "Making a Bestseller." (But really, don't ask us how to "make" a bestseller. There's no magic formula.) Author Candy Gourlay has a nice wrap-up at her blog, "Notes from the Slushpile."
She also has a nice summary of the 1st-page critique I participated in on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Sarah and I once again collaborated, this time on an all-day Master Class. I think the official title was "Editing a Bestseller" but we basically focused on craft in the morning--we talked about character, plot, setting, and dialogue, and in the afternoon we talked about point of view and then did a writing exercise and critiqued each of the 30-something participants' writing, and then ended on a discussion about the business of publishing. I thought it was a rewarding, stimulating day (and hope the attendees agree), but I must say, it was also exhausting and by the end of the day my brain was mush.

But I was still itching to see some of Singapore, and so that night an author and I went to the Night Safari at the zoo. We saw lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, and more, but I must say, our favorites were the flying foxes and fruit bats (who flew so close to our heads we had to keep ducking) and these scaly anteaters called pangolins.
It was too dark to take pics of the real animals, but here I am with a pangolin statue!
We then managed to make it to the Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel around midnight for a quick Singapore Sling--the drink had been invented there.

The next day I had lunch at Epigram Books with an editor, Sheri Tan, and the CEO and Publisher, Edmund Wee. Sheri Tan had been an editor at Simon Spotlight for 15 years, and although we had never met in the States, she introduced herself to me at the conference and we had some mutual friends. She was originally from Singapore, and had recently moved her family back there.
the open-plan Epigram offices--gorgeous.

In the afternoon, illustrator Isabel Roxas and I met up with a friend of a friend of a friend named Eliza who had attended my masterclass. Isabel lives in Queens, but we had never met before Singapore, although she had visited our offices and met with some other editors. A friend of Eliza's joined us as well, and they took us to see the famous symbol of Singapore, the merlion! Yes, part fish, part lion, and quite cute.

We then went to the famous Orchard Road--an upscale shopping area that reminded me of a cross between Times Square and Fifth Avenue.
Orchard Road is so called because it used to be an orchard. Hence the metal "trees" on the outside of this mall.
We ended the night in the most delicious way possible--famous, Singaporean chilli crab!!! So, so, so, good.
Isabel about to chow down!
This picture makes me salivate.

The next day, another Master Class attendee, Katherine, offered to take me around. We got Thai food for lunch, and then wandered around Little India. Then, she dropped me off at the beautiful Botanic Gardens, where I wandered until dinnertime. After a quick and final last chicken rice, it was off to the airport and home for me. What a whirlwind trip it was!
The street where we had lunch--a nice mix of traditional and modern.
in the orchid garden

I absolutely loved Singapore, and the AFCC was so well organized and invigorating. Thank you to the organizers and the sponsors, and thank you especially to the attendees and my new friends who showed me around! Thank you so much for your warmth and hospitality.

Two days later (after editing Laini Taylor's Days of Blood and Starlight in between), I was back in the thick of work with Book Expo America (BEA). Here are a few pics:
the view from the hotel suite where we hosted meet-and-greets for Chris Colfer in honor of his debut MG, THE LAND OF STORIES

The speakeasy scene for THE DIVINERS party
Erica Perl and Alison Morris
Libba Bray sang a few songs to entertain the crowd. She rocked!
the BEA Children's Breakfast
Chris Colfer, the charming and funny emcee, and author of THE LAND OF STORIES
author Libba Bray with the huge banner for THE DIVINERS
speed dating with Libba Bray
The amazing dessert table at the Lemony Snicket party
Megan Tingley introducing Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket)
I also participated in the Middle Grade buzz panel where I talked about Grace's new book, Starry River of the Sky, coming this Fall. You can view that panel and others at the BEA livestream channel here.

It was an amazing, whirlwind conference, and I'm still catching my breath. Now back to regular life! Next up is the ALA conference in Anaheim in two weeks! And away we go again...

Thursday, June 07, 2012

pocket pacy travels

Even though I haven't mentioned it here lately, Pocket Pacy has been traveling the world!

Most recently, the Bell family took Pocket Pacy on an exciting trip to Zion National Park to see the annular eclipse on May 20th:
about 10 minutes outside the park

there weren't sunglasses small enough for Pacy

the sun gives her an angelic glow!

Neat, huh?

Wow!  I can't wait to see where else Pocket Pacy shows up!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Over my desk

The beginning of this was familiar to me, but the nots at the end -- not even needing to believe in yourself, always feeling a "divine dissatisfaction" that keeps you marching -- were new. They are what I find most helpful now.
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” -- Martha Graham

I don't think artists are any more alive than other people, but love the idea that discontent "that keeps us marching." In me it translates into  "I can make this better on the second draft." Logically I know that hardly anybody gets it right on the first one, though like many writers, I believe that for everyone else, it flows easily and that only I plod along.

Often I think that the only part of writing I can control is the sitting down and doing it....or in the great words of Jane Yolen, "BIC -- butt in chair." (btw Jane! If you ever read this blog! I am in Scotland too and have been since mid-April.) But Martha Graham reminds me that I can also TRY to "keep the channel open" -- focus, concentrate. 

This a friend has over HER desk and I've put it over mine, too:
"The place God calls you is where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."
I like the idea of writing from that place, or rather, trying to! Whether I can or not, the quote is a good reminder to write about what matters to me. It reminds me not to be satisfied with chatter,  but to write only when something that feels important   -- true -- right -- just comes.

That doesn't have to be anything deep or heavy, things that are funny and fun are needed, too. They're just as important as serious things. Maybe MORE important -- yes, I know grim dystopias are popular now, but there is a need for lighthearted joy, too. As Matilda said,
what was wrong with CS Lewis was that there were "no funny bits. Children are not so serious as grown-ups and like to laugh."

What do you have over your desk that inspires or encourages you?

Tuesday, June 05, 2012