Thursday, June 29, 2006

Do you remember your first...

Firsts are special. First steps, first word (mine was "hammer"), first kiss, first relationship, first you-know-what, first job, first baby, first spouse (haha). My first book acquisition is special in so many ways, least of all because it was my first. It's special because it was the perfect book to BE my first. It was a book I absolutely loved, and even though the first draft (that I read--not the author's first draft!) was so different from the published book it became, I loved each manifestation of it along the way. The book is Blow out the Moon by Libby Koponen. It's a book about a feisty young girl who moves with her family (by ship!) to England, where she deals with dreary grayness, prejudice, and unpleasant change. She eventually ends up at a boarding school in the English countryside where she finally finds her bearings, learns to ride a horse, learns proper manners, and grows up just a little bit. It's a charming, wonderful book that reminded me of all my favorite books growing up: LITTLE WOMEN, ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, LITTLE PRINCESS, CADDIE WOODLAWN, etc etc.

The manuscript originally came to me after my boss at the time, Megan, received her own imprint at L,B: Megan Tingley Books. She decided to open up our submissions guidelines somewhat and allow unsolicited query letters, and I was in charge of reviewing these letters, as well as the manuscripts I requested to see. I liked Libby's description of the book and sent a letter that I'd like to see the whole manuscript, and the letter was returned to us as "address unknown." Luckily, we also had a conscientious intern who took the time to track down the author's email through her website which was (also luckily) on the original letter. It turned out that Libby had a major typo in her return address!

Well, I read the manuscript, loved it, my boss read it and saw something in it as well and told me I could ask for a revision, which I did. After I believe two revisions, we took it to our acquisitions meeting where it was well-received, but unfortunately several key members of the committee were not in attendance, and they were not as enthusiastic about it. So, I went back for another revision. Happily, though, because my boss saw my passion for this project and was willing to give it a chance, we were able to sign it up, and I made my first-ever call to an author to make the offer. That is still one of the highlights of my career so far.

Libby and I met for the first time for lunch at Silvertone (the BEST mac and cheese EVER) for my first expensed lunch. We had, of course, talked on the phone and had many correspondences since then, so we were already dear friends, but that was confirmed when we met in person. Libby is a kindred soul!

At this point, our relocation to New York was taking place, so again things were a bit in limbo in terms of its publication date, but after many more revisions and several moving of lists, it was finally published in the Spring of 2004. Its first review was from Booklist--a star!

"The word delightful is overused in reviews, but it's difficult to find one that's more appropriate for this novelized memoir -- though warm and cozy would do in a pinch."--Booklist

It's since received many other glowing reviews, was picked by the NYPL as a Top 100 Title for Reading and Sharing, and was a Massachusetts Honor Book. It has just come out this Spring in paperback (with a newly illustrated cover!), so I'm hoping that it will reach a whole new audience.

This was a very sweet first for me, and also Libby's first published book. But the best part of all of this is that I gained a new friend for life in Libby. She wears glitter on her face, cooks a kick-ass meal and is a wonderful host, has traveled the world (and isn't done yet!), reads voraciously, and has a unique view of the world. Her personality really shines through in her writing, and I hope to work with her on many more books to come. But she and I will always remember our first time.


Chris Barton said...

I've read and heard lots of stories-behind-the-stories of authors receiving The Call for the first time -- how neat to get to see things from your perspective.

alvinaling said...

Thanks, Chris. Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

This was a fun blog to find. It's message is full of magic.
Do you think Little, Brown will ever open up their submission policies again? Or request themes?
[Just a wish.]

alvinaling said...

Sorry--I doubt our submissions policy will ever change, we still get too many manuscripts than we can handle in a timely manner. But thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

I don't remember how I happened to stumble on this book, but I'm glad I did. I loved it! Congratulations and good job!

Kit said...

Thank you Alvina, as I'm on the other side of the fence and so interesting to see what is happening as I wait -
Kit Grady