Three Questions For Children's Book Writers and Illustrators

Welcome to Inkygirl: Reading, Writing and Illustrating Children's Books (archive list here) which includes my Writer's and Illustrator's Guide To Twitter, interviews, #BookADay, writing/publishing industry surveysWriting & Illustrating a Picture Book For Simon & Schuster BFYR post series and 250, 500, 1000 Words/Day Writing Challenge. Also see my Inkygirl archives,  and comics for writers (including Will Write For Chocolate).

I tweet about the craft and business of writing and illustrating at @inkyelbows. If you're interested in my art or other projects, please do visit DebbieOhi.com. Thanks for visiting! -- Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Entries in RandomHouse (3)

Saturday
Sep142013

Interview: Peggy Eddleman and SKY JUMPERS (Random House Children's)

SKY JUMPERS - Author: Peggy Eddleman - Hardcover / 288 pages / Publication date: Sept. 24, 2013 from Random House Children's Books. ISBN 0307981274. More info about the book on Goodreads.

SKY JUMPERS by Peggy Eddleman is a fast-paced middle grade adventure with engaging characters and imaginative world-building. I was totally fascinated by the idea of the Bomb's Breath, a layer of chemically altered air that will kill those who breathe it yet slows the fall of Hope and her friends when they jump into it. I can't wait for the next book in the series! Highly recommended.

Book description:

What happens when you can’t do the one thing that matters most? Twelve-year-old Hope Toriella lives in White Rock, a town of inventors struggling to recover from the green bombs of World War III. But Hope is terrible at inventing and would much rather sneak off to cliff dive into the Bomb’s Breath—the deadly band of compressed air that covers the crater left by the bombs—than fail at yet another invention. When bandits discover that White Rock has priceless antibiotics, they invade. With a two-day deadline to finish making this year’s batch and no ingredients to make more, the town is left to choose whether to hand over the medicine and die from the disease that’s run rampant since the bombs, or die fighting the bandits now. Help lies in a neighboring town, but the bandits count everyone fourteen and older each hour. Hope and her friends—Aaron and Brock—might be the only ones who can escape to make the dangerous trek through the Bomb’s Breath and over the snow-covered mountain. Inventing won’t help her make it through alive, but with Aaron and Brock’s help, the daring and recklessness that usually gets her into trouble might just save them all.

About The Author:

Peggy lives at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Utah with her husband and their three children. She enjoys painting, playing games with her family (especially laser tag), and of course, reading.

Where to find Peggy online: Website - Blog - Twitter - Facebook

Q. What's your writing process?

I know it’s strange, and unlike 97% of authors, but I don’t write in my pajamas. I don’t write on the couch, and I don’t write in bed. Ever. I do line edits on my desktop computer, because it’s easiest there. But my desktop is also where I tackle all the non-writing aspects of being an author, so being in front of that computer distracts me. Plus, I feel like I’m in a cave. And I face a blank wall. It’s all very uninspiring.

Peggy writing in the Museum Of Art gardens.

So when I write or revise, I take my laptop somewhere else. A lot of times it’s my kitchen table, with the blinds on my french doors wide open, spilling in sunshine and a view of the trees, with my hubby and kids nearby. Sometimes it’s on my porch swing on my back patio with the bugs and the cat. And sometimes I go anywhere else. I take a camp chair to the ridiculously beautiful mountains overlooking my valley, I go to the park, the beach, next to a stream in the canyon, or at a neighborhood fast food dive that has the best shakes and who don’t care if I stay forever. The more ambiance and sunshine, the better.

Peggy writing on the beach.

When I first became a writer, I got my best ideas while folding clothes (which was mightily convenient). Sadly, though, that seemed to wear off. Now I work though the trickiest of plot problems while walking. There’s a great pedestrian canal road that runs alongside my town where I can talk out loud to myself all I want (because that when the best ideas always come, right?), and people are rarely close by enough to care. It gets hot where I live, though. Like melting hot.

Peggy writing in the mountains.

Because of my publishing schedule, my summers are always spent deep in revisions, and it’s just way too hot for my canal walks. So I wear paths around my shaded backyard, circling it and circling it and circling it until I come up with my answers. It also gets cold where I live. Like freeze-your-lungs cold. Winter is when I draft, though, and that’s when I’m left to rely on a good ole basket of laundry for ideas.

Q. How did SKY JUMPERS get published?

I decided that I wanted to take the traditional publishing route, and I started by reading everything I could about that process. I poured over writing blogs. I went to conferences and classes and joined critique groups. I made writing friends online. I read post after post about writing query letters. I learned what querying can do to your mental state and prepared myself for it. I learned hot the publishing industry worked. I was determined to go into this with my eyes wide open, and to have myself as prepared as possible for every aspect of it.

Sending her first pass pages for Sky Jumpers back to NYC.

After I had a manuscript (my fifth) that was unique, critiqued by dozens, well-revised, and one I knew had a good chance of selling, I set to writing my query letter. Learning so much about getting an agent may have brought out the defeated perfectionist in me. I’m not going to lie– it was very difficult to write my query letter! And it was very difficult to rewrite. And rewrite. And rewrite.

Signing her contract.I slaved over every word, every sentence, making sure they were the exact right one. And then I’d put it away and bring it out after a week or two, so I could slave over it with a fresh mind. Whenever someone offered a query critique, I took them up on it. I took a query-writing webinar and had an agent critique it. I took conference classes on query writing and had the presenter critique it. I had my sister critique it so many times, I was sure I’d invented a new form of torture.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I spent five months on it. Was that overkill? Quite possibly. Would I do it again? Absolutely. I’ve gotten some serious mileage with that baby! It got me both an agent and an editor quickly, a lot of the phrases / sentences from it are word for word in my jacket flap, and my agent uses it as an example when she talks about query writing at conferences. Best of all? Those phrases are burnt so deeply in my brain that when someone asks me to tell them about my book, it’s not so hard to tell them.

A question I get asked often goes something like this: “After your editor makes you change a bunch of things, did it feel like it wasn’t your book anymore?”

The answer is absolutely not.

When I got my first edit letter, my editor told me that I didn't have to change a single thing in my book if I didn't want to– that they loved it already and it was good enough to go to print as is. It could've been tempting to just say, “I'm going to leave it as is, then, because it's just how I want it. Then it’ll still feel like my book.” (For the record, it wasn't actually tempting.) Instead, I dove into the 9 page single-spaced edit letter full of really tough suggestions with an open mind and a willingness to work. And then we went through another three tough rounds and a round of tweaks after that before going to copy edits.

Standing outside the Random House building on a trip to NYC to meet her editor.

And do you know what I learned? That there really isn’t anything to worry about when it comes to the book no longer feeling like yours. Editors rarely tell you what you have to do to fix something. They just bring up the issues or places that it can be improved, and let YOU figure out how YOU want it solved. They’ll brainstorm with you on how to fix each thing if that’s what works for you, or they’ll let you figure it out on your own if that’s what works. The point is, in the end it’s still full to the top of your ideas and your writing. It’s just better. Because under the direction and support of someone who is brilliant, your own brilliance can find a way out.

In the NYC subway, holding her very first ARC of Sky Jumpers.

Q. What advice do you have for aspiring children's book writers?

Three things: be persistent, be teachable, and be flexible.

Be persistent.

This profession is not for quitters. It gets tough and you’ll get knocked down and beat up and rejected a lot of times and in a lot of ways. And the only way you’re going to get through it is if you have a very strong conviction that what you are pursuing is exactly right for you, and that you are strong enough to do it. So when those really tough things happen, you can remind yourself that you were made for this, and you can take anything that’s thrown at you. That you can stand back up, lick your wounds, and most importantly, that YOU CAN DO THIS. That you aren’t going to let a little thing like a harsh critique or a few bad writing days in a row or a rejection letter or even hundreds of rejection letters or shelving a beloved manuscript and starting over again stop you. That when it comes right down to it, you are going to win because you never quit.

At the filming of her book trailer.

Be teachable.

When you first start writing, it is so easy to feel like you’re an expert. (If you’re in this blissful stage right now, enjoy it. Enjoy it A LOT.) But the truth is, the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know. You can stay in that stage where you feel like you’re the expert for as long as you want, but you will never improve until you kick yourself out of it. And the only way to do that is by being teachable. When you have someone critique your work, and their critique hurts right down to the center of your soul, resist the urge to get defensive and to decide that they’re wrong. That they just didn’t get what you were going for, or think that they just aren’t as good of a writer as you, and therefore can be ignored. Let those feelings die down and then look at it with fresh eyes. There is truth in every critique if you are willing to be teachable. The thing about writing is that you will never get to the point where you can’t improve anymore, or where you don’t need to improve anymore. Yes. It’s both frustrating and awesome. The really great authors are the ones who never stop learning.

The kids playing Aaren, Hope, and Brock in the book trailer during their sky jumping scene.Be flexible.

Things rarely go according to plan in the writing world. From when you have planned to write, to that one scene not working out, to when you’re going to finish that draft, to when edits will be done, to when you plan to have an agent, to when your book sells, to where your book sells, to what marketing your book gets. Some of those things you can control. And some you can’t, no matter how hard you try to. You kind of just have to go with the flow, and accept that some things happen differently than you had hoped. Sometimes even after getting an agent, your book won’t sell. That’s when you change plans and write another one. Sometimes when you’re sitting down to write, your loved ones will need you. So you change plans and be with your family/friends. The more flexible you are, the more you will enjoy writing.

Q. What are you working on now? Any other upcoming events or other info you'd like to share?

I am just finishing up the very last of edits for book two of Sky Jumpers, which comes out in a year, and I’m gearing up for my launch party for Sky Jumpers. It’s going to be a huge celebration, and I can’t wait!

 

Where to find Peggy online: Website - Blog - Twitter - Facebook

Her book blog tour continues tomorrow at the Society Of Young Inklings.

RELATED RESOURCES:

Peggy's agent, Sara Crowe, explains why she fell for Sky Jumpers - Literary Rambles

Cover Scoop: SKY JUMPERS by Peggy Eddleman - The Lucky 13s

SKY JUMPERS extras on Peggy's website

SKY JUMPERS on Goodreads

TWEETABLES:

The really great authors are the ones who never stop learning. SKY JUMPERS @PeggyEddleman advice: http://bit.ly/165xFsE (Tweet this)

SKY JUMPERS author @PeggyEddleman talks about process, publication and writing advice: bit.ly/165xFsE (Tweet this)

 

 

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.


Monday
Jul012013

It's official: Penguin Random House merger is complete

Looks like it's official: Penguin and Random House are officially merged. CEO Markus Dohle sent the following to letter to Random House authors and illustrators (possibly Penguin as well? I received one because I'm illustrating the RUBY ROSE books for Random House Children's):

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To Our Authors,

Today, Random House and Penguin are officially united as Penguin Random House. For us, today is a beginning, and I very much want to reach out to you on our first day as a new company, because it all begins with you: you and the books you write and entrust to us to publish. For us, this is a sacred trust, one that before today Penguin and Random House have honored separately. Now it is a commitment and a privilege that unifies us.

Going forward, we will be defined by our mission for publishing with passion the books you write. In our author-focused, publisher-empowered culture, we respect that your most important day-to-day relationship is with your editor and your publishing team, and that will remain untouched at Penguin Random House.

Continuity within Penguin Random House will benefit all of us: The continuity of nearly 250 imprints and publishing houses worldwide, which will retain their individual identities and autonomy. The continuity of experienced, knowledgeable global and local leadership teams, drawn from both Penguin and Random House, who will fully support our publishers in realizing their objectives and your vision for your books. The continuity of vigilant protection of your intellectual property and copyrights.

Over time, as we gradually begin to integrate our companies, we will learn from one another and evolve to better serve you and your readers. With both businesses performing well, we can take our time with this process, to better understand and analyze the complexity and nuances of these important decisions.

One key development I am personally most excited about involves the future investments we will be making on a global scale for growing your readership in all markets. We will be strengthening our supply chain and our support services for physical booksellers while broadening opportunities in the digital arena. We will be developing more cutting-edge marketing tools and programs, further expanding our consumer insights and market analytics capabilities, and continuing to accelerate our penetration of emerging markets worldwide, all of which will allow us to maximize the number of readers we reach on your behalf.

The creation of our new company is the strongest possible affirmation of the future of trade publishing, and of the importance of maintaining strong and vibrant publishing companies, with diverse and innovative editorial teams. Our unprecedented alignment of resources and relationships is built on this foundation: the passionate belief that connecting authors and readers is at the heart of all we strive to accomplish together. On behalf of my colleagues, I deeply thank you for the opportunity to publish your books.

All my best,

Markus Dohle

Chief Executive Office, Member of the Bertelsmann Management SE Executive Board

Thursday
Apr252013

My Exciting News(!!): Two Book Contracts With Random House Children's Books

I am thrilled to announce that I will be illustrating two picture books written by Lauren McLaughlin debuting the pint-sized detective, MITZI TULANE, for Random House Children's Books. Editor: Maria Modugno. Art Director: TBA.

Lauren McLaughlin worked in the film business as both a screenwriter (Hypercube, Prisoner Of Love, Specimen) and producer (American Psycho, Buffalo '66, Vig, Stag and others), and she is the author of several teen novels including Scored, Cycler and (Re)Cycler. You can find out more about Lauren at http://www.laurenmclaughlin.net. I read Scored a while back and loved it, am looking forward to reading Lauren's other YA books as well.

My editor will be Maria Modugno. I was originally supposed to work with Maria on the RUBY ROSE books by Rob Sanders at HarperCollins Children's, but then I heard that Maria had left HC to become editorial director at Random House.

Maria Modugno, Editorial Director of picture books at Random House & Golden Books For Young Readers Group

Turns out that Maria still wanted to work with me (YAY!!) because soon afterward she contacted my agent, Ginger Knowlton, at Curtis Brown  and asked if I'd be interested in illustrating the Mitzi Tulane books.

I read the manuscript and fell head-over-heels in love with the pre-school detective.

:-)

I'll be starting work on the first Mitzi Tulane book in 2014.

Thank you SO VERY MUCH to my fantabulous agent, Ginger Knowlton, for helping make all this happen and keeping me organized, as well as Ginger's wonderful assistant, Mina Feig.

I'm soooo excited about all the fun picture book projects I have lined up over the next little while. These include...

What I'm working on right now:

NAKED! for Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by me.Editor: Justin Chanda. Art Director: Laurent Linn. Scheduled for publication in Summer 2014. Read the announcement about NAKED! in Entertainment Weekly.

What I will be working on in the near future and next couple of years:

UNTITLED picture book for Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, written AND illustrated by me (woohoo!!!!!). Editor: Justin Chanda. Art Director: Laurent Linn. Scheduled for publication in Spring 2015.

RUBY ROSE ON HER TOES for HarperCollins Children's Books, written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by me. Editor: Margaret Anastas. Art Director: TBA. Publication date: TBA.

UNTITLED (second RUBY ROSE book) for HarperCollins Children's Books, written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by me. Editor: Margaret Anastas. Art Director: TBA. Publication date: TBA.

UNTITLED (first MITZI TULANE book) for Random House Children's, written by Lauren McLaughlin and illustrated by me. Editor: Maria Modugno. Art Director: TBA.

UNTITLED (second MITZI TULANE book) for Random House Children's, written by Lauren McLaughlin and illustrated by me. Editor: Maria Modugno. Art Director: TBA.

Meanwhile, I am also working on writing and sometimes illustrating my own projects: picture books, illustrated middle grade, and YA. My children's book writer/illustrator sister Ruth Ohi and I are also planning to do a book project together. Life is pretty amazing right now, and I'm grateful for the people who have helped make it happen. I've mentioned a few of these people already, and will be posting about more of them over the coming year.

A Thank You To Justin Chanda & Simon & Schuster Children's

A Thank You Letter To The SCBWI

And how it all got started:

How A Rejection Got Me A Book Deal