Monday, January 25, 2010

Newbery Aftermath and Checking In on my New Year's Resolutions

Cross-posted from the Blue Rose Girls!


First of all, I added a few pictures to my ALA Midwinter post when I cross-posted it on my personal blog. Check it out here.

And here's a picture of what I came into my office to see after the news was announced. My assistant made the huge medal to adorn the book (the Al Roker is from another coworker after we found out the book would be Al Roker's Book Club pick on the Today show, and the stars are for the starred reviews the book received). The beautiful flowers are from my Publisher. They smelled fantastic, too.

I'm still basking in the news of Grace's Newbery Honor, and I can't express enough my gratitude to the Newbery Committee who recognized Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. As I mentioned in my post, as an editor, it is my dream to acquire and edit a book that becomes a classic. Of course, a Newbery Honor, or even a Newbery Medal, does not ensure that a book will become a classic, but it sure the heck doesn't hurt! Grace, your books are all classics in my book.


So, now that we're over three weeks into 2010 (not a bad year so far, I must say!), and I thought I'd check to see how I'm doing on my work resolutions.

1) Learn how to say "no" more. 
Yes! I turned down at least two conference invites this year already, as well as a few requests for meetings.

2) Stop counting on weekend and vacations and holidays to "catch up" on work.
I'm sorry to say that I haven't kept this up. In fact, I went into the office both days this past weekend. Then again, I didn't feel bad about it. I enjoyed the work I accomplished.

3) Don't stay at the office past 9 pm.

Yes! I think two days this year I stayed till just before 9 pm, but overall I've managed to leave the office at a decent time each evening.

4) Work towards "Inbox Zero"--I think this is probably too lofty a goal, so to be a little more realistic, I'd like to have under 20 emails in my inbox by the end of each day (Let's call it Inbox Twenty).
Yes! I'm the most amazed that I've been able to keep this up. The closest call was the first Monday back at work after the break, because I was dealing with weeks of emails that had piled up over my vacation. As 8 pm passed, I realized that resolution #3 would at times be in direct competition with #4...but for now, both resolutions have been achieved.

5) While at work, work. Less socializing and web surfing. 
Yes! Limiting Facebook and Twitter use while at work has worked wonders. I should probably cut out Gawker, too, though.

6) Acquire at least two picture books, two middle grade, and two young adult projects this year.
I'm working on it! Just finalized a two-book deal for two YA novels--more on that after the deal is announced. Also have a three-book middle grade deal in the works...

7) Read a little before bed at least five times a week. Read at least one published book per month.
Yes! Read one published book this month so far, over halfway through another.

8) Tidy my office at least a little bit once a week.

How are you all doing with your resolutions so far?

Monday, January 18, 2010

ALA Midwinter 2010: an honor!

I'm so thrilled that Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon has been awarded the Newbery Honor! And also so happy that Jerry Pinkney has finally won the Caldecott Gold with The Lion and the Mouse. It was a good day for Little, Brown! See all of the honorees here.

Here are me and Andrea Spooner (editor of The Lion and the Mouse) celebrating at the hotel after hearing the news and before heading over the the awards ceremony.

Watch the announcements of the Caldecott here, and of the Newbery here. My apologies for the shaky, off-center camera work!

Grace posted a few pics of "the call." So cute!

Here are Grace's agent Rebecca Sherman of Writer's House and I fawning over the book and the nice, shiny medal:

And finally, Grace arrived triumphant to the convention center in the afternoon:

Yay, Grace! I love this book so much. One of the Newbery committee members said to me afterwards, "This book is going to be a classic." That is my hope and dream.

For an update of the rest of ALA as I posted on the Blue Rose Girls before the award announcements, read on below.


I'm writing this post on Sunday night in my hotel room in Boston while watching the Golden Globes. I've been here since Friday for the American Library Association Midwinter Conference, and as actors and writers and directors, etc. all collect their awards, I'm trying not to think about our awards, the ones bestowed by the venerable American Library Association. I was burned last year, and on a roller coaster ride the whole weekend before the announcements, and was determined for that to not happen this year, and for the most part it's worked. I've managed to not think about it too much (yeah right).

That aside, I've set this the post automatically at 8:30 AM, so by now we all know which books have won, so I'll just give a general CONGRATULATIONS to all the winners! Although I have a few predictions and hopes, for the most part I have no idea what is going to win.

It's been a great conference so far. On my train to Boston on Friday, I saw a woman reading Grace's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Fun! Friday evening, Grace hosted a lovely dessert party at her home. Great company, conversation, and of course tons of dessert! Including Grace's delicious red velvet cupcakes.

Midwinter ALA is probably the most mellow of the conferences for me, as we don't tend to host authors at this conference--so no big events and lunches and dinners. Instead, we have one morning preview breakfast (Saturday morning) where we highlight some of our upcoming books to a select group of librarians. Here's the swag:

And then at the end of the breakfast, we had surprise secret guest speakers Andrea and Brian Pinkney, creators of the amazing book Sit-in: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down.

Then I headed off to the convention center:

Saturday afternoon I attended the "Great ALA Midwinter Kids/YA Lit Tweet-up" along with Anna and Grace. The Tweet-up was organized by Mitali Perkins and Deborah Sloan, and was a rousing success. It really was the place to be, as shown by all of the party crashers who showed up! It was so successful and well-attended that there were so many people there that I didn't end up seeing at all. Ah, well. Next time!

Sunday I had a lovely breakfast with agent Lauren MacLeod, and then an equally lovely lunch with agents Erin Murphy and Ammi-Joan Paquette. Then it was off to the BBYA teen feedback session. There seemed to be fewer teens than in previous years, and the session barely lasted an hour, but there were still some gems. One girls said that Shaun Tan's Tales from Outer Suburbia "Made me feel like a little kid again, in a good way. I loved it!! I loved it so much." Of Catherine Jinks's The Reformed Vampire Support Group, on teen said, "Yeah, it's another vampire book, but that's okay--it's a good one!" Another teen about an issue book: "I'm wondering if all authors think all teens have issues?"

The three favorite books on the list for the teens seemed to be Fire by Kristin Cashore, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, and Swim the Fly by Don Calame. Of the latter, one teen boy said, "This was my favorite book I read in 2009." Another teen said that she was so engrossed in Catching Fire that she forgot to eat.

I listened in on the Notables Committee for a bit as they discussed nonfiction (including a somewhat baffling debate as to whether giving animals names implies anthropomorphism), and then back to BBYA.

And finally, Sunday night I went out to Somerville again to have dinner at an old favorite, Redbones. Here's a pic of our feast, and friends:

And now it's past 11, the Golden Globes are over, and it's time for bed. After the awards announcements I'll be manning the booth until the convention floor closes, and then will sit in on BBYA again before heading back to NY. If you're still at the conference, come find me and say hi!

Monday, January 11, 2010

How I handle mail, plus a rant

Cross-posted from the Blue Rose Girls:

Yes, I do have a problem keeping up with email (as I've mentioned here), but I seem to have an even tougher time keeping up with snail mail. Our business, including submissions (in fact, especially including submissions), is handled more and more via email, and so I increasingly pay more attention to email and less to snail mail. In fact, I get irritated when agents send submissions, especially novels, as hard copies. They should know better by now!

At work, I have a bin labeled "mail" in my office where I dump all my mail, and last year I've realized that at times mail has stayed there unopened for over three months at a time, until I make time to sit down and open and sort through it all.

This is how I go through my mail: I sit down with the bin, open an envelope, scan the letter. If it's an unsolicited query or manuscript, I put it back in the envelope and scrawl "slush" on the envelope and put it in a pile. This pile is ultimately handled by our receptionist who send back form letters saying we don't accept unsolicited submissions or queries. If it's a solicited manuscript, I put in a different "log in" pile for my assistant. If it's a solicited query, I read it quickly, decide if I want to review it or not, and then write "Query yes" or "query no" on it and add it to the pile for my assistant. If I receive art samples, and I like the art, it goes into a pile for filing. If I don't like the art, it goes into the recycling bin (sorry, illustrators!).

Last Sunday, the day before I was to go back to work after the holiday break, I decided to go into the office to sort through my mail so the bin would be empty when I started the new work year. The pile was threatening to spill over. Yes, this is partially my fault--if I just opened and dealt with the mail I received each day, or even each week, it would be more manageable. But dealing with a pile of several months worth of mail, something became extremely clear: I get way more unsolicited submissions and queries than I should. In fact, I should receive zero--as a company, we only accept agented or requested/referred submissions. Instead, I receive on average one or two a day. I would say a good 75% of the mail I receive are unsolicited queries and submissions. And this irritates me to no end.

Our submissions policy is stated very clearly on our website:

Publishers in the Hachette Book Group (including Grand Central Publishing, Business Plus, FaithWords, Center Street, Mystery, Orbit, Little, Brown and Company, Back Bay Books, Bulfinch, Springboard Press, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) are not able to consider unsolicited manuscript submissions and unsolicited queries. Many major publishers have a similar policy. Unsolicited manuscripts, submissions and queries will not be answered and the publisher will have the right to destroy any unsolicited material or mail without returning to the sender.
I don't know if people ignore this rule out of ignorance, or in hopes that we'll take a look at their query or submission anyway. And, okay, yes--very very rarely, if you catch me in a good mood, I might scan the submission (especially if it's a book dummy with illustrations), but I don't actually remember an example where I've then actually ended up considering the submission--it still gets returned as slush. And I can say with 100% certainty that I've never ended up acquiring a submission that was initially sent to me as slush. So, STOP TRYING. You're wasting your time, my time, my assistant's time, our receptionist time, and you're also wasting money and paper, and making it harder for people who are following the rules to have my undivided attention. Stop it. Seriously.

Sigh. Remember when you loved getting mail? Remember a time when mail was something other than bills and credit card offers and catalogs and miscellaneous junk mail? Man, I miss those days.

Then again, sometimes I get very lovely things in the mail. Personal thank-you and holiday cards, gifts from agents and authors. That's the kind of mail I like to get!

Monday, January 04, 2010

My work resolutions for 2010

Cross-posted from the Blue Rose Girls.


I always make New Year's resolutions, including my "no candy" resolution of eight or so years ago. One of my resolutions this year (and last year, too, although I didn't achieve it) is to blog at least once a month on my personal blog. (Cross-posts from the Blue Rose Girls don't count.) Well, to get in the habit, I posted my first original bloomabilities post in a loooong time on Wednesday--I looked back on my Oughts here.

So now it's 2010 and it's back to work. Vacation is over--it passed so quickly! I got more than 50% of my very lengthy work "to do" list done, so I feel okay about starting the work year. However, because of the work, it wasn't a true vacation. It never really is, right? I think we all struggle with maintaining a work/life balance.

Around New Year's, agent Barry Goldblatt tweeted (or retweeted, rather) this:
Definitely! RT@DaveMcKean Resolution? More unequivocal days, that is WORK days and PLAY days, not guilty play days and distracted work days.

That really resonated with me, because if I had to pick two words to describe how I felt last year, they would be "busy" and "guilty." I felt guilty all the time because of all of the things I had to do and wasn't doing. All of the submissions yet to read, the unanswered emails and calls, the people to get back to. I felt guilty all the time about not working, even when I wasn't supposed to be working. And that needs to stop.

So, in addition to my usual work goals, in 2010 I'm going to try to set some boundaries and make some changes in how I work. Here are a few of my work-related resolutions I've come up with so far:

1) Learn how to say "no" more. Last year I really did try to say no to favors and requests that I really didn't have the time to do, but if someone insists and says "Are you sure? Please?" I often fold and say yes. I need to stop that. Because this past year, I've said yes to things, and then have not followed through with the task in a timely manner, and that's contributed to this constant sense of guilt.

2) Stop counting on weekend and vacations and holidays to "catch up" on work. Weekends and vacations are "me" time! And it never really works, anyway. (This is an example of "guilty play days.")

3) Don't stay at the office past 9 pm.

4) Work towards "Inbox Zero"--I think this is probably too lofty a goal, so to be a little more realistic, I'd like to have under 20 emails in my inbox by the end of each day (Let's call it Inbox Twenty). If you're curious as to what Inbox Zero is, watch this (rather long) video:

5) While at work, work. Less socializing and web surfing. Sure, Twitter and Facebook and blog reading are also work-related for me, but I need to stop checking the sites throughout the day. Once in the morning, once during lunchtime, and once after 5 pm will suffice.

6) Acquire at least two picture books, two middle grade, and two young adult projects this year.

7) Read a little before bed at least five times a week. Read at least one published book per month.

8) Tidy my office at least a little bit once a week.

And, of course, I resolve to keep all of my resolutions! Really! And if I don't, I won't feel guilty about it, because I hereby declare 2010 the Year of No Guilt.

What are some of your resolutions if you make them? What do YOU declare 2010 to be the Year Of?

Happy New Year, everyone! It's going to be a good one. I can feel it.