27 May 2015

Working with Holiday House

Holiday House is publishing After the Ashes, and I could not have asked for a better experience as a first-time author.

Even before I signed the contract, I got a lovely email from my editor, Kelly Loughman, about what was then called Unnatural Selection.
Welcome to the Holiday House family! I’m so delighted to be working with you on Unnatural Selection. I’ll be in touch in far greater depth once the contract is all squared away (more on that in a moment), but I want to tell you right this minute how much I enjoyed the manuscript, and on so many levels. It’s riveting and heartbreaking and lovely…often all at once!
Once the contract was signed, the big day arrived. I got the editorial letter. I have heard and seen scary stories about editorial letters (one author I know got one that was 24 pages long!). Naturally, I was a little nervous to open the attachment.

To my relief, Kelly's letter to me was only two pages. Whew!

The biggest changes (aside from changing the title) were including an author's note to distinguish fact from fiction and offer a bit more explanation for readers as well as adding more detail in the final chapters about where the main character's life might eventually lead.

Simple! That was before I opened the manuscript and saw page after page of tracked changes marked in red. One of my critique groups jokes that I love my red pen, but if they were to see those tracked changes, they might pass out -- especially when reminded that this is after at least five or six revisions of my own and maybe six or seven more with my agent.

To my everlasting relief, I agreed with most of the changes. Over the course of the next five months, we revised the manuscript three times.

Then came the copy-edits, which I reviewed twice. My favorite copy-edit note was concerning the use of the word hissed.
Change “hissed” to another verb of utterance per house style as dialogue does not include an s-sounding word?
I used hissed twice to describe the way a character spoke. In the end, I kept one and changed the other.

The galley pages arrived on my doorstep one night, and I didn't even know they were coming. My hands shook as I reviewed those pages for any final, minor changes.

Throughout copy-edits and galley revisions, Kelly actually sent me thumbnail sketches of the cover. I was not expecting that. I know authors have very little say in the covers of their books, and I anticipated seeing the cover along with the rest of the world. I was thrilled with the sketches. The artists are two sisters from Italy. Italy! Can you believe that? They go by the name Anna+Elena=Balbusso. Two Italian women creating the cover for a book written by a Texan and set on Java in 1883? The world really is a small place.

Their work on their site is stunning, and I love, love, love the cover they created for After the Ashes.

I think we've finished the final little edits and corrections -- buffing, I call it. Now, I'm looking forward to galleys and then the bound and printed book that I can put on my bookshelf.

18 May 2015

My TLA Author Experience

In April I attended the Texas Library Association's annual conference as I have for the past sixteen years.

As the conference was in Austin this year, I went up early to visit a friend. I planned to leave directly from work, so my bags were packed and in the car.

Before I left work, I got a phone call from Terry, the marketing director at Holiday House. Would I be available to attend a dinner Wednesday night? I told her I would, and she said she would send me the guest list.

At a pit stop on the way to Austin, I checked my email and saw the guest list. I recognized a few of the librarians listed, but what surprised me even more was being listed as an author along with Roxie Munro and Michelle Lord.

Wait. I was coming to this dinner as an author?

Shaken and more than a little terrified at this prospect, I continued on my way. That's when it hit me.

I didn't have anything to wear to this dinner!

I'm a light packer and generally take only what I need. I had pop culture T-shirts for my weekend with my friend and library system polo shirts for TLA. I had sturdy walking shoes. Somehow, I didn't think it would be appropriate to show up at a dinner with Holiday House wearing a Big Lebowski shirt or a Brazoria County Library System polo.

Only one solution - shopping!

My friend and I popped over to Target where I bought a dressier shirt and Frozen flip-flops. I am a children's writer and a children's librarian, after all!

Once the conference exhibits opened, I stopped by the Holiday House booth and got another shock - a flier advertising After the Ashes. I picked it up and snagged the first librarian who walked by and said, "This is me!" Then I took a photo with a different librarian (I think she was from Lubbock).

I took that flier and showed it to everyone I knew.

Then came the dinner. Terry asked me to read a small excerpt from After the Ashes. Thankfully, I had the manuscript in my email. I chose a selection that would hopefully leave those in attendance wanting more.

Unfortunately, Michelle Lord was taken ill and could not attend the dinner, but Roxie Munro is amazing. She talked about how she developed her new book Market Maze.

Then it was my turn. It was at this point that I thanked my lucky stars I'm a children's librarian. Reading in front of a crowd is not a problem. I was also grateful for all the one-act play and prose training I got in high school for UIL.

I took a breath and read from my iPad.

Those in attendance seemed to enjoy it. They 'oohed' at the forbidding nature of the end of my selection.

The rest of the evening was spent in discussion about books, libraries and education. All in all, a terrific way to introduce myself as an author.