Monday, July 20, 2009

Chautauqua, Part Two

Cross posted, once again, from the Blue Rose Girls.


As I mentioned last week, I've been at the Highlights Foundation Writer's Workshop at Chautauqua.

Chautauqua. Ah, Chautauqua. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

1) The Athenaeum Hotel, my home for a week. This was the first hotel in the world to have electric lights, thanks mainly to the fact that Thomas Edison's father co-founded the Chautauqua Institution.

2) My lovely hotel room and lake view. The sun rose over the lake in the morning, bringing a lovely light to the room.

3) Great outings, like the chicken cookout where Jerry and Eileen Spinelli interviewed each other (this is where I found out the interesting tidbits about Jerry that I mentioned last week. Another interesting fact: his favorite movie is Anne of Green Gables!).

4) Speaking of outings, one evening we took a fascinating visit to the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, the highlight of which was seeing a drawer of bird specimens, including extinct birds, such as the passenger pigeon and the ivory-billed woodpecker, aka the "Lord God Bird" (the latter perhaps not extinct after all...).

5) Inspiring and informational speakers throughout (myself included, I hope!). The morning keynote sessions were held in the Hall of Christ Sanctuary. Peter Jacobi (let your words take flight and soar), Patricia Lee Gauch (who urged writers to "Be a little crazy! Be a LOT crazy!"), Stephen Roxburgh (who talked about technology and called books and e-Books "word buckets," saying that "Readers are readers. They seek words that mean something."), and more.

6) The art and culture infused all throughout Chautauqua. Walking around, you couldn't help but run into a concert, a lecture, or perhaps the circus...

7) The last night surprise tribute to Highlights Foundation co-founder Kent Brown, who is the visionary behind the Writers Workshop, which celebrated its 25th Anniversary this past weekend. Several of the faculty, including Peter Jacobi and Larry Pringle, had been there at the very first conference. They, along with others like Jerry Spinelli:

and Patty Lee Gauch:

gave heartfelt and funny tributes to Kent. It was like a roast without the insults.

8) The auction Thursday night that funded a brand-new scholarship in Patricia Lee Gauch's honor (she retired from Philomel a few weeks ago). One of my favorite auction items was this cuddly bear from the Spinelli's, complete with inspiring poem:

9) Lovely gifts from authors (aside from their writing, of course!) Here's a bouquet of flower pens that one author made for me! And given to me on my birthday, too. It was one of two birthday gifts I received from authors at the conference. Not a bad way to spend my birthday.

10) The people. The faculty, the writers, and especially the staff and volunteers, all combined to make it a warm, supportive, friendly, and inspiring week.

As you can tell, I'm a Chautauqua convert. I thought the schedule and set-up was the perfect balance of practical information and inspiration. Being in such a magical setting was inspiration in itself. Who knows, maybe someday I'll be able to buy a summer home there...we all need to dream, right?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Chautauqua, Part One

Cross-posted from the Blue Rose Girls.

First things first: Anna is now married! Her wedding on Saturday was absolutely beautiful, so touching, perfect. She and Bruno wrote their own vows, and I swear--there wasn't a dry eye in the place. So romantic and joyous. I'm sure there will be pictures later...(I have yet to upload mine).

I apologize for the late post, but after a travel day on Sunday that started at 2:30 in the morning and ended with a 12:30 pm arrival (10 hours!), I'm now in Chautauqua, NY for the Highlights Writers Workshop. It's a week-long program at the Chautauqua Institute, and even though I've only been here a day an a half so far, I absolutely love it. It's such a idyllic setting. My hotel room overlooks the lake, and this morning I woke up early enough to see the sun rising over the water. It's a gated, walking community with lots of amphitheaters and parks and gardens. There are little brown bats flying around eating all the bugs (as opposed to Little, Brown editors), and most of all, there are passionate, friendly, and excited children's book enthusiasts.

Sunday afternoon Jerry and Eileen Spinelli gave a fun, playful talk at a chicken cook-out--they basically interviewed each other. Some little tidbits I learned was that Eileen consistently beats Jerry in Scrabble, and that Jerry's slippers at home are 20-years-old. These are things about authors that we need to know!

This morning Peter Jacobi gave a detailed informative speech about how our work need to soar. His mantra that we repeated after him at the end:

Fly, Oh Thought of Mine, on Golden Wings.

I met with four authors one-on-one for 30 minutes, going over pages I had read and critiqued ahead of time, and in the afternoon, after sitting in on Patricia Lee Gauch's workshop on Conflict and Tension, and then Stephen Roxburgh's on Plot, I gave my first of two talks, From Slush to Contract. It's a talk I've given several times before, but as usual I tweaked and specialized it for the audience. I think it was well-received...

And tonight I've just returned from a lovely dinner where Candace Fleming told her own Chautauqua success story. She first came as an attendee 16 years ago, and has now published 22 books with more on the way.

I'm absolutely loving this conference, and so far, would highly recommend it to authors. I believe it's pricey, but they do offer scholarships and grants. And people come from all over the world--so far I've met writers from Ecuador, Turkey, Japan, and Israel.

Tomorrow morning the legendary Patricia Lee Gauch is giving a keynote, and then I meet with my remaining three authors. Everyone meets with their faculty member twice during the week, which I think is a great format.

And so, with that, I bid you all good night. More next week!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Sneak Peek at Spring 2010

Cross-posted from the Blue Rose Girls.

We had our Focus meeting a few weeks ago where we presented to our Sales, Marketing, and Publicity teams our Spring/Summer 2010 list for the first time. I thought I'd give you all a sneak peek of my (and Connie's) titles:

picture books:
Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney.
This is a title that I'm handling for our editor-in-chief during her maternity leave, and it's been a real honor to work on this beautiful book with such an amazing team. This is a nonfiction picture book about the momentous Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworth's lunch counter sit-ins that started on February 1, 1960. Next year will be the 50th Anniversary of this historic moment that helped spur on the entire Civil Rights movement.

Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
A hilarious, wacky book that pits Shark against Train in increasingly silly scenarios. Shark and Train play basketball, go bowling, play hide-and-seek, have a burping contest, and more. Who do you think wins, and who are you going to root for, Shark or Train?

Look! A Book! by Bob Staake
This is another project I'm handling for our Editor in Chief. Bob Staake is an award-winning author/illustrator of over 40 books who also has numerous New Yorker covers to his name. This is a fun seek-and-find book in the tradition of Where's Waldo, but with an innovative format using die-cuts on every page.

Board books:
Boy of Mine and Girl of Mine by Jabari Asim, illustrated by LeUyen Pham*
These are two board books that are companions to the adorable Whose Knees are These and Whose Toes are Those by the same team. The text in these two bedtime board books is fun and lyrical, and LeUyen's illustrations are absolutely brilliant. I can't wait to give these books as gifts to my friends with babies!

Middle Grade Fiction:
Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same by Grace Lin
This isn't really Middle Grade, but it falls between MG and picture book, so this is where we slotted it. This is an early reader, 48 pages, full color throughout, about two irresistible twins named Ling and Ting. They look exactly alike, but in reality they're very different. This is an exciting new format for Grace, and one that we haven't published much before either, but it's an absolutely beautiful, adorable book. Was Ling named after me? You'll have to ask Grace. :)

Moonshadow: The Rise of the Ninja by Simon Higgins*
A fun action adventure set in ancient Japan, and written by an expert of Japanese swordplay. This book was first published in Australia. This is a little more light and commercial that my usual books, but I loved the humor, the action scenes, the little bit of magic, and the historic setting. And although the main character is a boy, he encounters a girl ninja spy along the way, so there's plenty of girl power here as well. And who can resist ninjas?

The Adventures of Nanny Piggins by R.A. Spratt, illustrated by Dan Santat*
This is my assistant Connie Hsu's second acquisition, but I wanted to include it here because it's so frickin AWESOME. This is Mary Poppins meets Babe with the wicked sense of humor of Roald Dahl. This is the story of three kids and their nanny--who just happens to be a pig, and a wonderful adventurous, stylish one at that. Oh, and she has an insatiable love of chocolate. Here's a character sketch of Nanny Piggins in her former life as a circus pig.

Young adult fiction:
Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
This is a debut urban fantasy set in New Zealand and steeped in Maori lore. What impressed me most was the sharp, fresh voice and the kick-ass main character. It's deliciously creepy, sexy, scary, funny, and full of adventure, Maori fairies, monsters, and of course an epic battle. We already have endorsements from Holly Black and Libba Bray, the latter who says, "Mark my words, Karen Healey is going to be a big star." I believe it.

Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick
When I first read this novel, I was on the subway, and I was right in the middle of a very tragic, heartbreaking scene that resulted in snot and tears running down my face--pretty embarrassing. But people who know me know that I'm a sucker for books that make me cry, and this was love at first sight for me. This book is Juno meets Stargirl--Juno for it's fresh, spunky voice, and Stargirl because of its message of optimism and hope.

Stay tuned for these books next Spring/Summer!

*books Connie took the editorial lead on

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


In honor of Grace Lin's book launch for her new novel Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, here's a video I took of her showing off the book:

Head over to her book site for more book launch fun and giveaways!! The T-shirts she's made are adorable.