Saturday, November 29, 2008

Some of what I’m thankful for:


-for technology—I’m posting this from a plane! Yes, I’m in the air right now. It boggles the mind. Via www.Gogoinflight.com.

-for my family, and my family’s health

-for a loving extended family—even though we don’t always see eye-to-eye in terms of religion and politics, I know they’re always there for me

-for having a job that I love with a company that is reasonably stable (even flourishing), during these difficult economic times

-for having fabulous coworkers, especially my amazing assistant. They all rock!

-for all of the wonderful attention that Wabi Sabi has been receiving

-for living in a wonderful, free country (and yes, for Obama being elected)

-for my affordable, spacious apartment in Manhattan, and my fun, considerate roommates

-for Central Park and the East River, perfect places to run

-for Podcasts like “This American Life,” “Slate.com” (especially the Gabfest), and “RadioLab”

-that my parents’ house was safe from the fires

-for my gadgets/electronics: my Sony Reader, Macbook, iPod Touch, cell phone

-for my talented, genius authors and illustrators, the best in the business

-for my fellow Blue Rose Girls

-for the Randoms (we're not as crazy and active as we once were, but we're still there for each other) 

-for caring, fun friends, both new and old, spread all over the world

-for G

-for the Puppy Cam

-for the Kidlitosphere

-for good food, drink, and times

-for life and all it’s endless possibilities (or should I say, bloomabilities?)!

 

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Jason's 33rd B-day

Last weekend I participated in a Taco Challenge for my cousin Jason's birthday. Jason is one of the co-founders of Animoto, so I thought it fitting to try out Animoto's new text function. It's a whole new world!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Puppy Cam!

I've been obsessed with these Shiba Inu puppies since I saw the link on Gawker a few days ago.


They're so fluffy and wiggly and snuggly, I can't stand it. I've been keeping the feed up on my computer all day and night, and occasionally click over to see what they're doing (FYI, the live feed stops at some point during the night...). I even had a dream that I showed it to some friends. That's how obsessed I've been.

Oh, they're just so cute. I want one.


Edited to add:
Oh! I just discovered you can embed it!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Voted!

My apartment (four women) has been split 50/50 for this election, although I believe my other three roommates are all registered Republicans--who woulda thunk it in NYC! But in any case, we reached over party lines and three of us ended up going to the polling place together this morning at 8 am.

(edited to add: I'm so proud of Bindu, who just became a citizen and who voted for the first time today!)

The lines inside seemed pretty long:

But once we found out our district number, for some reason we were able to bypass most of the lines--the whole process took only about 15 minutes!

I didn't get an "I voted" sticker for some reason, but once outside I put my pin back on. If you look closely, you can see who I voted for, not that it's been a huge secret or anything:
It's an exciting day!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

More SNL

Here are a few more videos I've especially enjoyed:

Jesse Jackson discussed the Bradley Effect:


Hall & Oates split on who they support:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Scary, sad stuff

I'm trying not to be political on this blog, but I wanted to share these two videos that almost made me cry. If you're a McCain/Palin supporter, you may not want to watch. Then again, maybe you should... I know (I hope!!) that people like this are in the minority, and I'm sure there are equally horrible people on the other side, but regardless, this election is really bringing out the ugly in people. For those people who say racism isn't alive and well, I think this is proof enough.


Really sad:


Really frightening:



If those didn't work, you can view them here and here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Olympic obsession

I've been somewhat obsessed with the Olympics--I didn't think I would be, but I've been watching it almost every night. I've been fascinated by some of the side stories, too: the lip syncing little girl at the Opening Ceremony who wasn't pretty enough (I think she's adorable!), the dancer who was paralyzed in an accident during rehearsals, the controversy over the Chinese gymnasts' ages, Michael Phelps's quest and the fingernail finishes, etc. etc. But one of the controversies that has most fascinated me is that of the Spanish basketball team's advertisement featuring the teams all posing doing the somewhat Universal "slanty eye" imitation that all Asian-Americans will cringe at and recognize from their childhoods. 

I first became aware of this from this gawker post, and consequent follow-up posts, and then also some coverage in the NY Times. What most fascinated me were the incredible amount of comments--the NY Times article's comment count is up to 1,098! The commenters are from all over the world, and obviously many of them from both "sides" were quite upset and angry. Many Spanish people were in an uproar about being called racist, and most of the comments I've read from Spain are by people insisting that the ad was simply a joke, a "wink" at the host country of the Olympics, done "in love" and how is it even possible that people interpret the ad as being racist?

My personal first reaction to the ad was to cringe in disbelief. Honestly, I don't think anyone who has ever had this gesture done to them has misinterpreted the intention of the perpetrator as intending anything but ridicule. But of course, it crossed my mind briefly--maybe all those kids were actually just "winking" at me, and expressing their affection for me! Ha.

But in this case, I personally don't feel that there was any real malicious intent on the participants, although it's hard for me to believe that the ad was done with love and respect to the Chinese people. However, I do object to the Spanish reactions in the comments--even if they did not intend the ad to offend, people were offended. I wish they would simply try to understand why some people reacted that way, and apologize. 

I do feel there was ignorance involved. And it made me realize that I love living in a politically correct culture. Many people condemn political correctedness, but it allows me to live in the world without feeling that people are constantly seeing me as an "other," and knowing that without overt racism, perhaps future generations will change their thinking from previous generations. Then again, I did go to UC Berkeley, the PC capital of the world, so I may have a skewed view of this.

The controversy also made me wonder if the people of China have ever encountered this gesture--it seems unlikely to me, because they are the majority. So it's likely that they wouldn't be offended by the ad at all.

Anyway, I'm over my obsession with this controversy now. I'll leave you with this hilarious segment from the Jon Stewart show concerning many of the controversies I've mentioned above.



Some thoughts on Book Design

I'm a little sad that I haven't been able to post much on this blog aside from my weekly Blue Rose Girls posts, but I will soon, I promise!

In the meantime, here's my BRG post:


I was thinking recently about how hard it must be to be a book designer. I admire what they do so much, their thought and creativity that goes into the design of each book. I think I'm especially in awe of how covers of novels come to be--with pictures books, they already have an artist and images to work with and inspire them, but for novels they have to conjure up a design from thin air, sometimes. But what I think must be the hardest thing to deal with is knowing that ultimately their design is not "their own"--that they have to answer to so many different opinions. The editor has to be happy, the author has to be happy (even thought most authors don't officially have consultation or approval of the cover, of course we want them to be happy!), and in most cases, an entire jacket committee consisting of marketing, sales, design, and various editorial sorts have to be happy. And it doesn't stop there--we want the book buyers to also love the cover, and of course you're also trying to make the cover appealing to both the adult buyers (booksellers, librarians, teachers) and the kids, too.

And sure, as an editor, I sometimes think about all of these people while editing a text, too, but I also know that ultimately, the book truly belongs to the author, and although I may ask them to change something, they have every right to say no. When I bring a book to editorial meeting and then on to our acquisitions committee, sometimes (often) different people have different opinions. One person might hate a part of the book that was someone else's favorite part. Some people might dislike a plot twist that others think make the book special. It goes on and on. And so I've come to realize that when it comes time for me to edit the manuscript and work with the author on making the book better, I have to decide in my own heart and mind what I feel the book needs, regardless of whose feedback it goes against. Because I know that in the end, if the author can make it work (and of course they can!), the readers will accept it.

Designers don't have that freedom. They have to answer to all the people I've mentioned above. That's their job. And I know that in the past I've struggled sometimes with trying to balance the designer's vision with that of the author's--it's a shame when they aren't aligned. Personally, I trust our designers and their vision, and love working with them on cover designs. In some cases, I have an idea of what I want the cover to look like, but oftentimes I'll wait and see what the designer comes up with first so as not to taint their creativity. Sometimes I just have a feeling I want to convey. "The cover should be joyful, full of color and light" or "it should be thoughtful and quiet, have a very literary feel" or "I want to make sure that the cover has crossover adult appeal" and so on. And the designer takes this all in and works their magic. And although it might take a few takes, the designer never lets me down.

There have been times where I'm discussing a novel with the designer and telling them, honestly, that I have no idea what I envision for the cover. One example is for the novel Firegirl by Tony Abbott, which is about what happens when a new girl joins a 7th-grade class. The new girl is a victim of severe burns on her face and body, and because of her appearance, some of the class fear her. The only image that came to mind when thinking about the cover, which I knew would not be appropriate, was to show a photograph of a girl being burned. And so I put it completely in the designer's hands. She came back with an idea I found absolutely perfect. This is one of my favorite covers for a book I've edited. What do you think?
Another thing difficult about book design is that everyone has an opinion about covers. It's inevitable. We judge a book by its cover, after all! And in the case of picture books (as many of my fellow BRGs know) and some novels, you're working with an illustrator or author who is an artist, and sometimes also a designer themselves, and then the designer has to adjust how they work even more, and weigh everything with their own expertise, and their own knowledge about what works and what doesn't in regards to the market and our own jacket committee. It's not an easy task. I feel lucky to work with such talented designers. They rock! Here's a sampling of some recent and upcoming novel covers our designers have done that I especially love:







In somewhat related news, I'll be speaking at the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI conference in October and have been asked to talk about the process of how illustrators are chosen. I'll no doubt be polling our talented design team for some feedback and anecdotes, and I hope to be able to share more posts about book design in the future.

Here are a few blogs dealing with book design:

Mishaps and Adventures is the blog of an art director
Jacket Whys discusses children's and YA book covers
The Book Design Review discusses the cover design of adult books

What are some of your favorite book covers?

Monday, August 11, 2008

How a children's book character helped me play golf

The week before last I was on vacation in Virginia (near Charlottesville), and spent a good part of my time learning how to play golf. Golf had never seemed to me a sport I could actually learn, although I do enjoy watching Tiger Woods. It just seemed to complicated. My father is really into golf, but I've only been out on a golf course one time, when my mother and I went with him while he played--I mainly amused myself driving the golf cart while my mom washed the golf balls. But this time, I actually learned how to play. My friend G was my coach, and a quite good one at that. He always knew where my ball would go depending on which club I used. And although I'm a far way from getting good, by the end of the week I was averaging between 5 and 10 strokes depending on the hole, and I was actually driving from the tees.

But my big challenge was focusing on the ball rather than looking ahead to where I thought the ball should go. "Keep your head down!" G kept saying. When he said that, I thought, Gee, that sounds familiar. And it was because it reminded me of the second Sergio book, coming out next Spring, Sergio Saves the Game. In this book, Sergio learns how to play soccer, and his coach and teammates remind him to "Keep your head down! And your wings up! And your eye on the ball!" Well, except for the wings part, this mantra helped me with golf. I would tell myself, "Keep your head down, Sergio! Keep your eye on the ball!" And you know what? It actually worked. So, thank you Edel, and thank you Sergio.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Fearless or cautious

Cross-posted on Blue Rose Girls:

I've been delinquent with my posts--I've had family here for consecutive weekends (my older brother last week, my parents this week) and thus have been a bit distracted and unable to think of something substantive to post about. And now I'm off for a week's vacation in VA.

Although not children's book related, I thought I'd just share a small observation I had while on vacation. Over Fourth of July weekend I attended a family reunion (my mom's side of the family) on a Mexican Baja Cruise: 49 people, 3 generations, 14 children aged 7 and under. It was an incredible time. I tried rock climbing for the first time on the top deck, went swimming in the salt water tour, stepped on Mexican land for the first time in my life (despite living in Southern CA for so long), and ate myself silly.
In the dining hall, there are huge port windows with a little ledge which were perfect for kids to sit/stand on, although I'm sure that wasn't the intended purpose. If you looked out, you saw ocean everywhere, and I decided to pick two kids up to take a look: Owen and Madeline, both around 2 years old. Madeline loved it. She laughed and cooed and pointed, and seemed to try to step onto the window to go out in the water. Owen's lower lip started to tremble and his eyes got a terrified look in them and he started to cry, so I quickly lifted him down. The stark difference made me think about personalities, and how much of who we are is innate. I wondered if Madeline would grow up fearless, and Owen more tentative, or if their life experiences would change them gradually. It'll be interesting to observe as they grow older. And it was also interesting to me to hear their parents view--Madeline's mom fretted that her fearlessness would get her in trouble--that she would put herself in danger.

I should ask my parents which child I most resembled. I remember being fairly daring as a kid (I loved climbing trees, swimming in the ocean, and wasn't afraid of heights), but I also know I was afraid of fireworks and spiders. And I feel that in some senses, I've gotten more fearless as I've grown older, but in other aspects of my life, more tentative.

How about you? How were you as a kid compared to now? And for you parents out there, do you want your kids to be fearless or cautious?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hwang Family Reunion 2008

Over Fourth of July weekend I went on a Baja Mexican cruise onboard the Monarch of the Seas (Royal Caribbean) for a family reunion on my mother's side. Three generations, 49 people, 14 kids age 7 and under. A fabulous time.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Sense of Self

(Cross-posted on the Blue Rose Girls)

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!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Focus meeting and Sneak Peak

(Cross-posted from Blue Rose Girls.)


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.

Paperback:

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


And now, back to working on my presentations!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The voice for animals

I had the pleasure of watching the live taping of the Colbert Report on Tuesday--it was a great experience, especially as I haven't been to a taping of any show in a while (I did a bunch of them when I first moved to NY six years ago). Stephen Colbert was so personable--he took questions from the audience before the taping, and the last question was, "What is your best Karaoke song?" The answer? "King of the Road," and he proceeded to swing into the first verse, and he was indeed masterful.


The guest was author and zoologist Alan Rabinowitz, and I have to say, his story about what inspired him to work with animals was so touching, it almost made me (and Stephen) cry. It starts at about 1:13.





After the show, Stephen shook my hand (and, okay, those of half of the audience). Nice firm handshake. I heart Stephen Colbert!

Monday, June 09, 2008

meme of fives

Julie over at no want decaf! tagged me for this meme a while ago. Better late than never!

The rules of the meme get posted at the beginning. Each person answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the blogger then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

What were you doing five years ago?
I was an associate editor at my same company, and had been living in NY for about one year.

What are five things on your to-do list for today (not in any particular order)?
1. Review and decline manuscripts
2. go to pilates class
3. post at Blue Rose Girls
4. meet with an illustrator about a potential project
5. call an author about ALA plans

What are five snacks you enjoy?
1. popcorn!
2. Pirate's Booty (just finished off a bag tonight)
3. fruit
4. string cheese
5. Baked Lays

What five things would you do if you were a billionaire?
1. Get my pilot's license
2. Travel the world
3. Be a foster/adopted mother
4. Buy property with a tower
5. Donate more to causes I believe in

What are five of your bad habits?
1. Eating when I'm not hungry
2. Procrastinating by watching TV or surfing the Internet
3. Watching bad reality television (like the Bachelorette which is on now)
4. Mumbling
5. Adding "or not" to the end of suggestions

What are five places where you have lived?
1. Edison, NJ
2. Berkeley, CA
3. Somerville, MA
4. Taipei, Taiwan
5. Diamond Bar, CA

What are five jobs you’ve had?
1. Mrs. Field's Cookies cashier
2. B&N bookseller
3. Lawrence Hall of Science front desk clerk
4. Fields+Hellman film production intern
5. English tutor/teacher

What five people do you want to tag?
Grace, Rita, Maria, Tanya, and Sara.

What I Like

(cross-posted from the Blue Rose Girls)

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?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Let's sum it all up

Just saw this great video from slate.com summing up the Democratic Primary in eight minutes. I guess I didn't have to follow it in real time as closely as I had.




If the video doesn't work, you should be able to see it here.

Monday, June 02, 2008

My children's book weekend in pictures

(Cross-posted belatedly from the Blue Rose Girls)

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?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sergio Makes a Splash!

Cross-posted (belatedly) from the Blue Rose Girls.


It's been a while since I've posted the acquisition story for a book I've edited, in part because I haven't had a book by a brand-new author/illustrator come out in a while. Well, I have a new one for you now.

You've all probably heard me mention Sergio Makes a Splash by Edel Rodriguez before. This isn't Edel's first book that he's illustrated--he has Float Like a Butterfly; Oye, Celia!, and a few others. But Sergio is the first book he's also written, and it's the first in a different art style.

I met Edel for the first time I think about 5 years ago. My company was still part of Time Warner, and we were in the Time & Life building. Along with all the Time Inc. Magazines that we got for free that I sorely miss (especially Entertainment Weekly and People), we also received a company newsletter/internal magazine that highlighted things going on within the company (new movies, magazines, etc.), and also occasionally profiled employees who were doing interesting things. Well, in one issue I saw a little profile of Edel Rodriguez, who was an Art Director for Time Magazine. The profile mentioned that Edel was a children's book illustrator, and I thought, What? An illustrator possibly right here in the building (Time was also housed in the Time and Life Building), and I don't know who he is? I promptly looked up his books, and loved his art style. I was also very interested in picture book biographies, and he had illustrated a few of them. I emailed him to introduce myself, and the next day he came down to my office and dropped off his portfolio.

I showed the portfolio at editorial meeting, and everyone loved his stuff. At the time, I was pursuing a picture book biography of Jimi Hendrix, and thought Edel would be a perfect match. Unfortunately, that project didn't pan out (I believe the book will be coming out with Clarion later this year), but I always kept Edel in mind for projects.

Several years later, in February 2006, I received the submission for Sergio Makes a Splash from his agents at Pippin Properties. Sergio is a penguin who loves water, but is afraid of deep water, because Sergio can't swim. Edel was inspired to write this story after observing his daughter and other neighborhood children in their backyard swimming pool.

I've always loved penguins, and I was so taken by this adorable character. I also loved the new style Edel was using--a very simple, bold, three-color style that felt both retro and fresh. Everyone loved the character at our acquisitions meeting as well, and we made a two-book deal.

There was some talk at editorial meeting and acquisitions meeting about having Edel write a first introductory book--this is similar to what we did for Chowder by Peter Brown, although in this case, although we explored other story lines, in the end we went back to the original concept and shaped it more so it worked as a first book in a series.

It was certainly convenient working on the first book, as Edel was right in the building, although I know he'll testify that it wasn't always so great, as I would sometimes run into him randomly in the cafeteria and nag him about missing deadlines. But now we've moved on, and Edel has as well--he left his job at Time at the beginning of this year to spend more time with his daughter Sofia, and to focus on his illustration work full time. We're working on the second Sergio book now, Sergio Saves the Game, about Sergio playing soccer, slated for next Spring.

Edel contributes to a great illustrator blog, and he had a great post a few weeks ago about Sergio's publication here where he shows some interiors and some of the promotional things we've been doing. I love how he's Sergio-ized his blog!

And speaking of promotional things, last week we got in what is definitely the coolest promotional item ever made for any of my books. A full-sized Sergio beach towel!! It's sitting on one of the chairs in the office right now, so it kinda looks like Sergio's here with me. Isn't it awesome?!
Sergio has been extremely well-received so far, including a starred review in Publisher's Weekly: "A penguin with a fear of swimming is both a comic and a useful premise—plenty of similarly haunted readers will want to laugh at Rodriguez's (Float Like a Butterfly) sympathetic presentation, and his illustrations guarantee that they'll be able to share the fun, too...One of those rare books that doesn't sacrifice child appeal in its embrace of up-to-the-minute visual techniques."

And one of my favorite reviews is from (gasp) Kirkus: "Sergio comes with his own website, but a celebrity like Olivia he's not--more of an everypenguin, whose angst in the face of new experiences will strike a chord in many young children."

And as I mentioned in my Bologna post, we gave Sergio a big push there--here I am, about to make a splash:
And I'll leave you all with this final picture. Here's Sergio's first fan--this is the designer, Tracy Shaw's niece, who of course got one of the advanced copies.


I love Sergio! I hope you all will, too.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

How many people have your name?

Interestingly, there are more people in the U.S. named "Alvina" (9,122) than have the last name "Ling" (7,115).

And, as to be expected:

HowManyOfMe.com
LogoThere are
0
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

For some reason, I thought there was a possibility that someone in Texas was named Alvina Ling--I think she came up in a White Pages search. But maybe not. For now, I only know for sure of one other Alvina Ling, in Singapore.

link courtesy of Fuse #8.

Monday, May 12, 2008

IRA in Atlanta

As posted on the Blue Rose Girls:

Last week I was traveling yet again, this time to Atlanta for the International Reading Association (IRA) conference. I have a soft spot for IRA, as it was the very first conference I attended, back when it was held in San Francisco. I think it was back in 2002--I was just an assistant editor and it was all new and exciting for me. This year, I was quite excited to check out Atlanta. My father has a PhD from Georgia Tech and was finishing up when I was born. We moved away when I was about 9 months old, so I have no memory of it, and haven't been back since. From the little I saw of it, it was a cool city, but I'll have to go back when I have more time to explore--I didn't end up leaving the downtown area all week.

It was quite different from last year's under-attended conference in Toronto. We had a heavily-trafficked booth, partially because of our booth location (right near the entrance), and perhaps also because everyone who skipped out last year came this year. This, added to the fact that one of our colleagues wasn't able to make it at the last minute, leaving us short-handed and scrambling, resulted in all of us being busy from morning till night. I found myself with barely a spare minute all week.

I hadn't quite been prepared to see the extent of the damage from the tornado that hit the downtown area in March. Some of the hotel rooms in the Omni were damaged, although mine was untouched. Jerry Spinelli said that one of the windows in his room was held together by duct tape. "But it seemed study," he said--he had pushed on it. (!) Thank goodness it held.

Here's the view from my hotel room. You can see some damage in the building on the left.
And here's a closer photo of another building with extensive damage (I think this is actually one of the towers of the Omni).
Here are a few pics of the booth:We had seven authors/illustrators at the fair: Jerry Spinelli, Gail Giles, Joan Steiner, and Jerry Pinkney for the first half, and then Wendy Mass, Chris Gall, and Sherman Alexie later in the conference.

I'm not going to give the detailed play-by-play of this year's conference, and I didn't end up taking as many pictures as I usually do, but here are a few highlights:

I had met fellow editor Stacy Whitman for the first time at last year's IRA, and we managed to meet up again this year for some ice cream in the CNN center food court. Here's Stacy, and she has a wrap-up of the conference and more pics on her blog here.
Because we were short one staff member, the only session I was able to attend was the one with Wendy Mass and Pam Muñoz Ryan, which was excellent. I hadn't heard either one speak before, and found both to be passionate, heartfelt, and poised.
Later that day I ran into Lisa Yee while on the floor. Earlier in the conference, I had asked someone if "Lisa Yee had taken out her Peepy" which I realize sounds a bit weird. But here we are, and yes, she took out Peepy. Lisa is holding up her iPhone which had almost this exact same picture on it (except, of course, without the iPhone)--too bad it didn't show up.
Wendy had three signings after her panel, one at our booth, one with Scholastic, and then one at the Anderson Book Shop booth. I got a call from her during her last signing. "You have to come over here and see what's going on," she said. She wouldn't tell me more. I made it over and took a double take. There was quite a crowd, cameras flashing, women squealing. Do you recognize the gentleman sitting next to Wendy?
It's Jeff Foxworthy! Needless to say, Wendy didn't get much attention at that particular signing (but at least her other two signings were great). She was a good sport about it, though, and came away with a signed book for her kids, and a story to tell.

It was a conference full of author signings (back to back to back to back on Tuesday), dinners, cocktails, authors, editors and other publishing folk, and of course books books books. I didn't have too much time to walk the floor, but I did manage to snag the new Sharon Creech (Hate That Cat) and Andrew Clements (Things That Are--although I haven't read Things Not Seen yet).

We ended the fair on a high note, with a signing by Sherman Alexie on Thursday morning. The last day of the fair is generally quiet, so it wasn't quite the frenzy that we were expecting (although a few die-hard fans started lining up over a half hour before the signing), but Sherman stayed in the booth for a full hour and a half signing away. And for you fans out there, you'll be happy to know that his follow-up to The Absolutely True Diary of the Part-Time Indian should be out next Spring.
Thankfully, I don't have any more work travels until ALA at the end of June, although the hectic schedule isn't ending. I'm scrambling to edit all of my Spring 2009 novels right now so that they can go into copyediting by the end of the month. And this afternoon is our library preview for our Fall 2008 books (read about some of our previous ones over at Fuse #8 here and here). Stay tuned to find out who our surprise guest will be.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

SCBWI Austin

Cross-posted from the Blue Rose Girls blog:

Last weekend I went to Austin, TX for the first time for the Austin SCBWI "Write in the Heart of Texas" Spring Conference. Thank you to everyone who helped make the conference possible, especially Regional Advisor Tim Crow.

I was especially excited to go to Austin, not just because I had heard such wonderful things about the city, but also because it gave me an opportunity to meet some of the authors and illustrators I've worked with and/or corresponded with, and yet never met in person. People like the fabulous and generous Greg and Cynthia Leitich Smith, who hosted a great party the night before the conference at their beautiful home.And then of course there was Chris Barton, author of the upcoming S.V.T. (and no, I won't tell you what it stands for) who picked me up at the airport and took me to Hoover's for my first sample of mac n' cheese in Austin (as well as grits and jalapeño creamed spinach):
and some Elgin sausage (with more cheese grits):
After the conference, he took a few of us out to the Congress Bridge for a viewing of the largest urban bat colony in North America. Here we are with Chris's agent, Erin Murphy.
The viewing didn't quite go as planned, although it was still a lovely evening. Apparently, the weather was a little too cold and wet, and the bats didn't emerge till after sunset, so it was a bit hard to see them, but before giving up (as most of the other spectators did), we found a spot right in the corner of the bridge where we could see them wisp out under the streetlight. It was quite eerie, actually, almost like ghosts spiraling out from under the bridge. I took a bunch of pictures, but they're pretty dark. But I swear, if I lightened and enlarged this, you'd see bats. Really.
Chris has a great description of our evening here.

After the bats, we were off to sample a bit of the live music Austin is known for. Chris took fellow presenters Erin Murphy, Deb Wayshak, and me to Flipnotics where we stumbled upon Colin Gilmore and his band performing. Apparently Colin is the son of Jimmie Dale Gilmore, a name I wasn't familiar with, but one that Chris and Deb got quite excited about. And dad happened to be in the audience, as well. Pretty cool!
And of course, to back up, there was the conference itself. It was a very well-run day, packed with speakers and critiques and portfolio reviews. Everything was on a tight schedule that pretty much went off without a hitch, except, I'm afraid, my talk. I forgot to watch the time, and although I had timed my speech beforehand, I hadn't accounted for all the tangents I would go off on, and I ended up both going over my time slot by ten minutes, and also having to skip over the end of my speech, probably about ten more minutes worth of material. Partially because of that, I wasn't happy with it overall. I also wasn't sure if the talk was too dry, or too discouraging--as loyal readers of this blog know, there are a whole new set of issues that come up once you're published. But, well, I hope I gave everyone some good information. I'll be posting some excerpts of my speech here and there. To start, here's a part towards the beginning of my talk, which was titled "The realities of children's book publishing."

I’d like to share with you all the single most important piece of advice I’ve received during my professional career. In fact, I find it so important that I wrote it on a Post-It and have it up in my office to remind me every day. And I heard this advice from the oddest source—from Andrea Jung, CEO of Avon—yes, the cosmetics company. Little, Brown was formerly owned by Time Warner, and while we were housed in the Time and Life building, we were occasionally invited to Time Inc events. I belonged to A3, the Time Inc. Asian Affinity group, and won a spot at a luncheon where Andrea Jung was speaking. She spoke about a pivotal moment in her career, when she was second in command at Avon, and passed over for the CEO spot in favor of an outside candidate. At the time, she had an offer to be a CEO at another company, and was counseled by Avon Board Member Ann Moore, who was CEO of Time Inc, “Follow your compass, not your clock.” She decided to stay with Avon, a company that she loved and believed in, and was promoted to CEO two years later.


Follow your compass, not your clock. I think this advice holds true in all of your careers as well. I think so many of us are rushing, anxious, constantly comparing our own careers with everyone around us. We all need to make sure we remember the things that are really important to us.

And now, back to what's really important to us--the food! (Okay, I'm being cheeky, but you know me, I love the food pictures.) After the conference, we were treated to another fantastic meal at Threadgill's where I sampled the local specialty, chicken fried steak. And of course had more mac n' cheese. And no, although I tried my darnedest, I did not finish the whole steak.
The next day I had brunch with author Diana Lopez, whose first middle grade novel, Confetti Girl is slated for the Spring 2009 list. We went to the lovely (and packed) East Side Cafe were I had migas for the first time--delicious!
We met up with Greg and Cynthia Sunday afternoon at BookPeople--truly, one of the best bookstores I've ever been to. Their children's section is fantastic, and I was especially impressed by their selection. And, of course, I was thrilled to see many of the books I've edited on display, such as Firegirl by Tony Abbott:
Plenty of Grace's books, too!
And Chowder by Peter Brown:And finally, Sergio Makes a Splash by Edel Rodriguez, which just got a starred review in Publisher's Weekly!
Here are Greg, me, and Diana in the kid's story time section:
Then Cynthia, Greg, and I went off in search of cowboy boots (I didn't buy any) and margaritas at Guero's Taco Bar.
And then it was back to BookPeople to meet illustrator Marc Burckhardt. We went to dinner at Lambert's Downtown BBQ where we had fried green tomatoes, ribs, and, of course, mac n' cheese. For those of you keeping score, Lambert's mac n' cheese scored highest in Austin in my book (although I must say, it still doesn't compare to Silvertone in Boston).
Whew. I'm stuffed.

And now, back to packing. I'm off to Atlanta, GA for the International Reading Association conference. No doubt I'll have more food pics to share when I get back. Maybe I'll see you there!