Saturday, October 01, 2005

What's brown and sticky?

**Retrieved from Friendster blog**

What's brown and sticky? 

(answer at the end of the post)

First of all, if you're tired of getting an email from friendster every time I update this, you can change your notification preferences on friendster. Just thought I'd let you know.

Okay, so I just realized that I can use this blog to talk about BOOKS! What a novel idea. Get it? Novel? heh heh.

So, every book I've edited or worked on or acquired has a story behind how it was acquired. Today I will tell you the story of FLIGHT OF THE DODO by Peter Brown (who is actually a friendster). Peter and Tracy, if you' re reading this, I hope you don't mind that I'm telling this story.

A few months after I was relocated to NYC from Boston with the rest of the Little, Brown children's division (2002), I attended an illustrator event somewhere downtown. Since I was still relatively new to NY, I don't remember where I was or who sponsored the party--all I know is that there was free food and drink, and there were lots of illustrators around. Most of the people there seemed to be editorial illustrators and not children's book illustrators, but as I was mainly just hanging out in my group of coworkers I had come with, eating the free food and drinking the free wine, it didn't really matter to me. Tracy was single at the time, and was excited to meet a cute, eligible illustrator, so we were helping her scope out guys. Towards the end of the night when we were about to give up, she noticed a cute guy up on the balcony. He eventually must have felt 5+ pairs of eyes on him, because he looked in our direction, and Tracy boldly gestured him to come down. He disappeared from view and we weren't sure if he was coming down or not, but a few minutes later I saw him heading our way. "Hello, ladies" he said suavely. We laughed and all introduced ourselves. His name was Peter. We asked him what he did. "I'm a children's book illustrator," he said. We all exclaimed excitedly and told him we worked in children's book publishing. We talked some more, and then I gave him my business card after writing Tracy's email address on the back (it was clear that he was attracted to her, too).

The following Monday Peter emailed Tracy and they set up a date for him to show her his portfolio (does that sound dirty?). I remember standing at Tracy's cubicle before the date and saying, "Geez, I hope his work doesn't suck. That would be awkward."

The next day Tracy showed me his portfolio, and I was floored. His art style was beautiful, unique, incredible. I loved it. I brought his portfolio to an editorial meeting and everyone agreed that he was hugely talented. Tracy and Peter went out on a few more dates, and one night he came out with a group of us for drinks, and I asked him if he had any story ideas. He told me he had one about a penguin who builds a flying machine.

Around that time, my friend Grace's book OLVINA FLIES (named after me) had either just come out or was about to come out--her book is about a chicken who ends up having to ride in an airplane and is embarrassed. So I had flightless birds on my mind, and I loved Peter's idea. I liked it even more when he told me that the book starts out with Penguin getting pooped on. I mean, how genius is that?!? A flightless bird get pooped on by a flying bird. Incredible. So I told him I was really excited about the idea and would love to work with him on it.

He submitted it to me, and we went back and forth countless times doing different rounds of edits. During this time, he and Tracy stopped dating, but I kept in touch with him and worked on the book. A whole year after we had first met, I decided (at his agent's urging) that it was ready to bring to our acquisitions meeting.

Our acquisitions meeting is very formal, with all of the "bigwigs" present to decide if we want to publish a book--our publisher, editor-in-chief, sales director, marketing director, etc. It's always nerve-wracking to present at this meeting, especially if you care so much about the outcome as I did with Peter's book. I started my presentation when all of a sudden the lights in the conference room dimmed. I paused, and they went back on. So I continued, and the lights flickered again. This went on a few more times and then the lights went out completely. The room had a window so we could still see, but we could also see that the lights in the building next door were also out. Incredibly, our publisher told me to keep going, so I did. It was incredibly distracting, committee members kept getting up to call their departments or loved ones. Someone passed by to tell us that the lights were out all over Manhattan. And still the publisher told me to continue. Under these conditions, we managed to make the decision that although everyone loved the art and the story concept, we weren't yet ready to offer a contract because the manuscript still wasn't in publishable shape. But they didn't want to lose the project and so I was told to bring it back in a few months. As for the you may have guessed, this turned out to be the 2003 Blackout!

Peter and I worked more on the book, and after a few months I was finally able to offer Peter his very first book contract. Now, FLIGHT OF THE DODO is finally out and we're excited to share it with the world. Today, October 1, is technically its official publication date, but it's actually been in most stores for a few weeks now. It should be at a B&N or Borders or independent bookstore near you, and at the very least you can find it on Amazon:

So go out and buy it now!

For those of you in the NYC area, Peter is doing a reading in Bryant Park tomorrow (Sunday, October 2) at 10:25 am. He'll be at the Target Children's Stage of the New York Times Great Read in the Park festival. I'll be there, right before going skydiving, so come on out!

Oh, and, Peter and Tracy are dating again. In fact, she designed FLIGHT OF THE DODO and Peter dedicated it to the both of us "To Alvina and Tracy, two of my favorite birds." Peter Brown went to one party, got free food and drink, AND a girlfriend and book contract. How cool is that.

And what's brown and sticky?

A stick!


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