{one good turn…}

…usually deserves another. [YAWN]

Hello! Happy Spring Forward Week! My agent saw heard I was giving away some ARC’s of PARTLY CLOUDY, and since he’s not doing as many in-person schmoozes this Spring, he gave me a few of his copies, so now I’ve got well over five on hand. I’m happy to give out a few more, so if you’ve contacted me prior to now and you’re a bookseller, teacher or other book-person who would like one, do stay tuned!

{revealed: PARTLY CLOUDY, coming 2/16}

Ta-daaaah!

IT’S A CLOUD!


It’s a rainy Monday, and I’ve got clouds, folks!

I haven’t historically made a fuss over my covers, but my HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books book covers are so lively I’ve been unable to stop myself. And the upcoming PARTLY CLOUDY (coming SEPTEMPBER 7, 2021!) has got to be my favorite cover this year so far. Illustrated by the splendidly whimsical Geneva B (Dragons in a Bag, The Dragon Thief, Beyoncé: Shine Your Light, Curls) PARTLY CLOUDY somehow looks like it was done both in chalk pastels and digitally (how?) and captures all the heart and emotion of its main character, Madalyn.

Come back and see it tomorrow! Until then, enjoy your President’s Day, and… have some clouds.

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAYS TO…

…THE ENIGMA GAME, and to Elizabeth Wein, whose book shares the excellent timing of having a book emerge on Election Day. THE ENIGMA GAME is a WWII mystery featuring a Jamaican-Scots girl, and it’s for older readers, and is All Good Things. Go, read it!

And, of course, Happy Book Birthday to SERENA SAYS!

Reviews so far talk a lot about this as a very happy book – which, with this year as it has gone, is a hopeful, helpful thing. I hope Serena’s very ordinary frustrations and celebrations remind older readers and younger readers alike of how very much the same we all are – no matter what makes up the bits that make us who we are. Here’s to having that to celebrate today, if nothing else.

{a running list of events}

Welcome to my running Author PSA to remind myself what’s going on this month, and drag you along for the ride:


FYI: the naani poetry form was created by Indian poet and retired professor Dr. N Gopi. Naani is a short form, like haiku or senryu, with a set line- and syllable-count: 4-lines with 20 syllables total. Unlike haiku, naani poems are typically written about people, or on the human condition.

{radio stella —> stella speaks}

My agent, bless him, didn’t want to get my hopes up.

A novel which he’d loved, and which we both thought would get good traction in the market was floundering – as had the two YA novels before it. This latest novel, written quickly over the summer, was rejected by first one, then another editor, and the numbers were piling up.

Normally, within the first five rejections, I would have figured out a pattern of what was wrong with the piece – that many disconnected editors are usually not a monolith, but normally there’s a kind of consensus which arises from the editorial letters… the main character is X, the setting is Y, something specifically isn’t working and five out of six editors agree. Not this time. The replies were mostly, “it’s written beautifully, just not what we’re looking for.” “Stella is a hoot, but we already have x, y, or z, this season.” So, my agent persisted, and I moved on to something else, as one does. It’s part of the job of the writer – to write, and not worry about what is going on with the selling – that’s the sole reason for an agent, so the writer can set aside THAT particular anxiety in favor of the other hundred thousand.

Honestly, I’d already started revising Stella, in my head. I had done SOMETHING wrong, I couldn’t know for sure what, but I was positive it was me. That’s what we all believe – it’s US. It’s always US. It’s not the market nor the editors, nor is it the time of year, it’s US, and we are foolish and ignorant and WRONG.

Which is why last month’s phone call was such a shocker. My agent emailed me the day before my uncle’s memorial service with CALL ME in all caps in his subject line. (Amusingly, somehow in my last move he’d lost my cell number – or else I never gave it to him. This tells you how much we speak to each other across an open line. Introverts use EMAIL and we LIKE IT.) When I phoned him, he said, “Well, I didn’t mention this before, because sometimes, these things fall apart…” He’d had a conversation with an editor in passing, heard she was heading back to middle grade, after losing two of her big YA names to adult fiction. He asked what she was seeking, sent her my work midweek, and received a response… by the week following. She’d read my book over the weekend, taken it to an acquisitions meeting the following week, and messaged him with her interest a day later.

So, I’ve sold a pair of novels, one of which is definitely middle grade! I’m still blinking. Normally, NOTHING moves that fast in publishing. That Katherine Tegen (henceforth KT) offered the opportunity to work with her for TWO books was even more surprising – I’d never gotten that sort of offer, even after four books with EditorE. Suddenly, it feels like anything can happen – and I’m not completely sure what will. It’s a good – if unusual – feeling.

One of my earlier rejections for RADIO STELLA which is now being renamed STELLA SPEAKS is that the novel was “too commercial” for their house. This …was a surprise to me, as the idea is normally that if you win an ALA nod, you’re considered by most people to be a literary success, if not not necessarily a commercial success, as one normally has to do with reader popularity and the other with literary merit as judged by teachers and librarians… I’m reading Katherine Tegen publications like mad just now, catching up with what they’re about – their tagline is “high-quality commercial fiction,” so apparently now I’m commercial? Okay, I’ll take it.

Writers write. So, I’ll just get back to that and leave the perplexing question of what kind of book Stella will be to others more qualified to decide.

{thirty steps to meltdown or, what happens when I am stuck on a manuscript, in no particular order}

  • wander aimlessly through my house
  • stress clean the kitchen
  • read a lot. And queue up reviews for weeks in advance
  • trim my hair
  • Tell myself not to panic
  • trim tech boy’s hair
  • tweeze my eyebrows
  • tweeze my leg hair
  • look up trichotillomania on WebMD
  • rearrange the fridge
  • rearrange the spices by height
  • rearrange the spices by alphabetical order
  • stress bake cookies with no recipe
  • ask God WHYYYYYYYYY multiple times
  • wonder where that one figure skater is doing now
  • sigh a lot
  • dust mop beneath the couch
  • analyze the dirt in the Roomba
  • discover where earring backs have gone
  • rearrange my earrings
  • stress clean my desk
  • write notes to myself
  • find a spider. usher him or her out
  • ponder the pile of laundry in the laundry room
  • consider doing one load. consider doing ALLL the loads
  • lie on couch, staring, dry-eyed
  • Panic. Just a little
  • imagine names for pets
  • argue with self if pets are cats or fish or turtles
  • write faux jacket copy and abandon it
  • try outlining, then laugh wildly at how bad it is
  • full on panic. Wheeze
  • organize notes to myself by writing – neatest to scribbliest
  • read novel notes from 6 months ago, laugh wildly, edge into hysterical sobbing
  • make a serious stab at a novel synopsis
  • begin novel-as-movie paragraph, “In a world where…”
  • wail. Loudly.
  • find a spider. Usher it from this life
  • promise the muse nonexistent firstborn
  • take back promise, because kids would make this even harder
  • close my eyes and imagine the character
  • remember whatever the character wants needs to not happen
  • rediscover the concept of CONFLICT
  • write a letter, telling story of novel so far to mother
  • whisper, “Ohhhh…!” as light breaks
  • is that a spider? Huh.
  • mutter prayer of thanks and GET BACK TO WORK

{six word stories: winners!}

PC_magnets_final

PEAS AND CARROTS had a great book birthday. Thank you so much for the love and good wishes sent all day yesterday! It was nice to hear from so many of you. It was also excellent to see the effort that went into the six word stories you sent. Sometimes big stories lurk in little words. Some of the stories are sweet:

“Autism teaches patience, love, and truth.” – C

And others, not so much…

“Hell is other people. Or parents.” – D

These little stories definitely made me want to hear more. I liked that they were little novels enclosed in a tight space. Six words can give you a lot to go on — more than you might think:

“Product of Tiger Mom and DEFCON1.” – AC

“Mixed nuts, emotionally adrift; imperfect strangers.” – d

And I was amused by how many stories included… dogs. What is it with six word stories and dogs? The basic gist of all of the dog stories is wrapped up in this plaintive sigh:

“Nobody understands me but the dog.” – L

The stories have gone into the hat:

Congratulations to:

ABBY C

& “A QUIET GIRL SPEAKS”!

[email protected] Reads

Winners, once again using the contact form (Don’t leave personal information in the comments, of course) send your mailing address and you’ll receive a signed copy of PEAS AND CARROTS and some other tiny goodies.

Thanks to everyone who played along, and thank you again for being part of a great book birthday. I hope you keep writing the stories of your families, and of your lives.