27 Mar

What am I waiting for (3/07)?

News from editors on Pasta, James, Smith and P.O.

Submission (or revision) news on J.R. and Arbor.

Word on whether, where and when I’ll be traveling to do some on-site research for one project or another.

The Cybils post-mortem. Get your comments in now.

The receipt through Interlibrary Loan of an obscure figure’s autobiography — a book that might well be a crushing bore but might also inspire yet another research project. The two are not mutually exclusive, you know.

Official confirmation on a couple of fun pieces of news that I can share with you all.

The arrival of my very first issue of Horn Book, which I ordered over the weekend. It seems like it wasn’t very long ago, when I was first getting started in this business, that subscribing to Horn Book seemed like a total cart-before-the-horse extravagance.

21 Feb

What am I waiting for? (2/07)

News from editors on S.V.T., Pasta, James and Smith.

P.O.’s return to circulation.

The right time to travel a few hundred miles east for some on-site research for J.R.

Anything that may develop from an animation studio’s recent out-of-the-blue inquiry about one of my projects.


06 Dec

What’s next? Who knows?

Whatever else 2007 may have in store, it doesn’t look like I’ll be spending much time ginning up ideas for writing projects. Instead, I’ll just need to figure out which one to pursue next.

I’ve gotten encouraging editorial news lately on several of the projects I’ve got in circulation. Revision notes are supposedly forthcoming for both the James and Smith manuscripts. My Pioneers proposal has elicited interest in seeing a complete manuscript. And my Pasta proposal has met with a request for an additional couple of chapters.

On top of those are a trio of nonfiction projects that haven’t been pitched to any editors yet (including J.R.) but which I’m itching to tuck into, along with long-on-the-drawing-board ideas for a couple of middle grade novels.

This is a happy situation to be in. I vividly remember a loooooong period a decade or so ago when I wanted badly to write something but had no clue as to what, or even any idea about how to figure that out. I sure don’t miss that feeling.

06 Nov

What am I waiting for? (11/06)

Half a year since I last posted about this, I’m still waiting for more things than I’m working on. Including:

My first glimpse of the art for The Day-Glo Brothers.

News from editors about several manuscripts:

  • My biographies of James (picture book) and Smith (middle grade), which are both with the same editor. This editor gets them, I think, but there’s a big difference between “gets” and “buys.”
  • My middle grade novel, Arbor.
  • My proposal and sample chapters for Pasta.
  • My picture book/graphic novel series P.O.

Copies of the books nominated for the Nonfiction Picture Book category of the Cybils.

The next big industry/literary event I plan to attend: the Texas Library Association annual conference in San Antonio in April.

Next summer, when — a year before The Day-Glo Brothers‘ publication date — I’ll get cracking on a full-fledged web site, curriculum guides, and whatnot.

30 Jun

This, that, these and those

The details are out regarding my next highly anticipated (by me) public appearance. Here in Austin on Friday, August 4, I’ll join Nathan Jensen, Janice and Tom Shefelman, and recent compadres Anne Bustard and Mark Mitchell on a children’s literature panel at the conference of the Texas Christian Schools Association.

At the same conference, another local author, Lindsey Lane, will be celebrated for Snuggle Mountain, the honor book for the 2006 Children’s Gallery Award.

In other developments, I’ve put the (possibly) finishing touches on Arbor, a middle-grade novel that I first “finished” in 2003. At my agent’s suggestion, I took another pass at it this spring and made some further tweaks this past week. I had forgotten how much I enjoy that story — I’ve got some really high hopes for it.

When I last wrote about Toast, I was still trying to catch VR for an interview. Well, we spoke two Fridays ago and had a great, warm conversation. My CB and VR interviews have made the story much richer than it was before. I’m now trying to get a new draft finished by Wednesday, in time for Don to read it at our next critique meeting. After that, I’ll have about a day and a half to make further changes in time for my agent’s monthly manuscript-reading week.

Meanwhile, there’s been some progress on the submissions front. Smith, James and Pioneers all went out to an editor this week. I’ve been told not to expect a reply right away, which was not the case when another manuscript — P.O., perhaps a picture book, potentially a graphic novel — went out this Tuesday. It came back the same day. But those were six suspenseful hours, let me tell you.

I’m taking a long weekend, so have a great, safe July 4th (and 1st, 2nd and 3rd), everybody.

20 May

It’s three, three, THREE rejections in one!

Yesterday I got a big “No, thank you” on James, Smith and Pioneers, all from a single editor. She seemed to like my subjects a lot more than she liked my writing style, which is somewhat troubling — I come up with new subjects every week, but my style changes a little less often.

Oh, well. This means a new chance with a new editor — maybe three new chances with three new editors — starting next week.

And maybe, to quote Duke Ellington, “Fate is being kind to me. Fate doesn’t want me to be too famous too young.” Of course, it was funnier when he said it, because he was in his 60s at the time. And famous.

20 Mar

Biblio non grata

Besides the good news about Tony Persiani, there was another bright spot last week: An editor at a major house is interested in both my Smith manuscript and my Pioneers proposal, and both will be heading her way soon.

Speaking of Smith, even though the current version of the manuscript is, in theory, “finished” (and even though I have, in theory, “moved on to other projects”), I read another book about him last week, a brand-new memoir by someone who knew him well. And I’m relieved to say that this new account has made me only more intrigued and enchanted by him, and glad I decided to write about him in the first place.

One interesting thing about the book itself, though, is that the list of suggested reading completely ignores the only full-fledged biography that’s been published about him. This can’t have just been an oversight — the biography came out from a major publisher just a few years ago.

I’ve been aware of some grumblings about that previous book — displeasure among those who admired Smith that the author delved (necessarily) into his personal life and addressed (unnecessarily) a baseless and particularly ugly allegation, which the author ultimately dismissed. I wonder if that explains the biography’s exclusion from the reading recommendations in the memoir, or if there’s more to it than that.

08 Mar

Pioneer days

Three years ago, I applied for an SCBWI grant for a nonfiction picture book I’ll call Pioneers. I didn’t get the grant, and since my plan was to spend the grant money on a research trip necessary to complete the manuscript, I set Pioneers aside and focused on other projects (The Day-Glo Brothers, Smith, James) instead.

Well, now I’m back at work on a proposal for Pioneers — not for a grant application, but to shop around to editors. I’ve revised the synopsis, mostly by adding in a bit about how the book would fit into the market (vertically, with the spine facing out). And I’ve totally redone the writing sample.

Turns out, the “picture book” sample I’d written three years ago was more for a middle-grade text, and a fairly dry one at that. I’ve drastically shortened the length, removed the un-punchy parts, gave it a new beginning, and tried to make it work for the first 3-5 pages of a picture book.

We’ll see how it goes. I think Pioneers would be a fun project, and it would certainly be an educational one for me, since the topic is one I know relatively little about (just enough to know that I’d like to know more). I just hope it isn’t 2009 before I get back to it again.

02 Mar

Mr. Smith gets back into circulation

Word came from Agent Erin this week that my latest revision of Smith did the trick, so this middle-grade biography is ready to make the rounds among editors. This will be the first manuscript that we’ve sent out as a pair to an editor I wasn’t already working with, and I’m excited to see how the process works.

The one last thing I needed to do was put together my bibliography for Smith, which I took care of late last night. So, now I think I’ll reward myself with a little break.

Well, that was nice.

This morning I was up at my usual 5 a.m., sending out interview requests for the proposal I’m working on for E.F., which would be for young adults. Meanwhile, I’m waiting on a bunch of library books to help me get started researching another YA project I’d like to propose (it’s so new, I don’t have a pseudonym for it yet), and I also need to completely rewrite some sample text for Holiday, another picture book biography I want to pitch.

Good thing I’ll be fortifying myself today with some BBQ.

09 Feb

What to do?

This may well be a very short-lived condition, but for the first time in well over a year, I don’t have a nonfiction revision roosting at the top of my to-do list. Earlier this week, I sent Agent Erin my Smith rewrite, and with James dispatched to an editor last week, that takes care of my major, non-Day-Glo projects of late.

So, how to fill my time?

  • Compiling and burning a companion CD for my Smith manuscript. I don’t do this for all my subjects (though I guess I could), but Smith was a musician whose work is not as well known as it should be. Obviously, I’m trying to change that. Does a companion CD enhance the experience of reading a manuscript or expose its flaws? Guess I’ll know soon.
  • Resuming work on my marketing database for The Day-Glo Brothers. Does anyone know a good children’s bookstore in Cleveland?
  • Getting back to my research for E.F.
  • At last revising, maybe, a picture book fiction manuscript that a friend critiqued last fall. I think it’s going to take me a long time before I’m even ready to write a proposal/sample for E.F., and I’ve got to be writing something in the meantime. It could be this one. Or maybe that middle-grade novel.
  • Insisting to Agent Erin that I really am focused on nonfiction. It just depends on what the meaning of the word “focused” is.