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:
LogoThere are
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!