One week to go…

Anywhere But Here comes out a week from today! Yikes!

I am (a) worrying that everyone I know is going to read the book and wonder why in the world I’m writing rather than waiting tables, which is obviously my true calling in life; and (b) worrying that there are things I should be doing to mark its arrival.

Unfortunately, I can’t figure out what those things might be. I’ve written a few guest posts, invited people to my Kidsbooks launch on the 29th, and choreographed a three-hour interpretive dance about my neuroses*, but surely there’s something else?

Whew. Seven more sleeps…

* There will be no interpretive dancing at the launch party. At least, not by me. Promise.


Anywhere But Here has been getting some exciting pre-publication attention. It was featured in Quill & Quire’s fall preview last week, as well as at Canlit for Little Canadians.

But the closer we get to the release date, the more nervous I get!

When you hatch a baby, it doesn’t matter if it’s ugly and wrinkly — everyone tells you it’s the most beautiful creature they’ve ever seen. But when you hatch a book, everyone goes on-line and tells you exactly what they think. Ack!

I said this to two writer friends last week, and they responded:

“I know!”

“My book got a bad Kirkus review. I felt terrible!”

“Why is it so hard to get past 4 on Goodreads?”

“Another friend of mine got horrible comments on Amazon.”

This was NO HELP AT ALL.

It seems there’s nothing to be done. I have to wait for four more months with fingers crossed, hoping you’ll love my baby as much as I do!

In the meantime, I’m off to read someone else’s baby: Vikki VanSickle’s Summer Days, Starry Nights. I’m pretty sure this one’s going to be just as wonderful as a newborn book should be.

Coffee talk

I had a coffee date this week with a writer in that terrible “between” stage. She’s finished a manuscript, workshopped it, edited it, and now she’s sending it to agents and publishers. And receiving form rejection after kind rejection after helpful rejection after form rejection. When you get right down to it, the difference between a rejection letter with suggestions and a form rejection letter is like the difference between getting stabbed with a butter knife and getting stabbed with a dagger. Either way, you’re bleeding.

I had no magic advice to offer. Only the following:

  • Keep trying. All the successful authors I’ve ever met have strings of rejections behind them. Even the ones who seem like overnight successes usually aren’t, when you learn the full story.
  • Write something new. If you can’t bring yourself to start a new novel, write a poem or a picture book or a rock song. Begin a clean journal and spend an hour a day on freewrites. Eventually, you’ll find something that you can’t resist developing. You’re not giving up on your first project just because you’re exploring a new one. You’re doubling your chances. Who knows? Maybe the publisher who buys your second book will then want your first.

I wish I had more magic.

More moi

I have a brand new author page on the Simon & Schuster site, featuring questions and answers that may make me seem quirky and adorable, or just plain insane. (It’s difficult for me to judge objectively.)

If you need me over the next few days, I’ll be hanging out at this page, marvelling at how many authors are listed. Not only are there approximately one billion writers whose names start with “K,” there are even five others whose names begin with “Ky.” Who knew?

Q & A time: finding your illustrator

Last question recap from Monday night’s VPL panel. This one came after the official discussion had ended:

How do I find an illustrator for my work?

Good news! You don’t have to. In fact, it’s probably best if you don’t try.

Publishers have files of samples from professional illustrators all over the world. And they have editors with particular opinions. So, if your manuscript happens to strike an editor’s fancy, and she has a vision of what it would look like when realized by a particular New York artist… then you get a call!

On the other hand, you could ask your best friend’s cousin — who happens to give amazing watercolours to her entire family every Christmas — to create samples for your book. But you risk an editor glancing at the first image, rolling her eyes at how much she detests watercolours with overtones of green, and hitting the reject button before even getting to your brilliant writing.

Plus, it’s pretty darn fun to send your writing into the world and see it brought to life by someone you’ve never met. The illustrator for the 50 Questions books lives in New Zealand. Possibly in a commune. Sometimes with a chicken on his head.

Q & A time: first drafts

Here’s another question from Monday’s VPL panel:

I’ve finished my manuscript. What should I do next?

First of all, congratulations! Finishing a first draft is a huge accomplishment. You should spend at least a few days imagining your future book launch, practicing your autograph, and writing your speech for the Academy Awards. (You were asked to write the screenplay for the film version, of course).

Next, you should send it to your mother, or someone equally biased. She’ll read your manuscript and rave about how brilliant you are. Then she might say something like, “Dear, the man named Dave in chapters one through seven, was his name supposed to change to Thor in the second half of the book?” Because, of course, she’s so enamoured with your skill that she assumes your mistakes are references to experimental fiction techniques and not real mistakes at all.

Once you’ve gone through that round of “editing,” and you’re feeling strong, pass the manuscript to a critique group, sign up for a workshop, or even take your pages to a conference. (More about critique groups coming later this week.) Basically, you’re ready for a skilled and honest round of edits. You need people who will point out that chapter seven is self-indulgent, chapter nine includes seventeen flashbacks, and prologues are passé. Listen to these people, rewrite, and submit again.

All done those stages? Now, pop your manuscript in a drawer for at least a month, until you can read it with fresh eyes. While you’re waiting, read a couple books on plot, character development, or voice.

After your next round of revisions — maybe! — you’re ready to submit.

I know this process seems ridiculously long. I know that the wait times are excruciating. But, like publishing, writing is slow. And the mantra that writing is rewriting… unfortunately true.

A bloody quick pick!

I mean that in the most polite possible way. YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) has selected Seeing Red as a 2013 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers!

I think the YALSA jury and I share similar tastes. Check out these other books from the non-fiction list:

K is for Knifeball: An Alphabet of Terrible Advice by Jory John and Avery Monsen


I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats by Francesco Marciuliano


Weird But True! Stupid Criminals: 100 Brainless Baddies Busted, plus Wacky Facts by National Geographic


Now, why didn’t I think of writing poems about cats and pee?