Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Autograph Party This Saturday

If you're attending the PNWA 2007 Summer Writers Conference at the Seattle Airport Hilton this weekend, be sure to say hi during the Saturday night Autograph Party. I'll be signing copies of my graphic novel Black Beauty and checking out the other 60+ authors' books during breaks.

The Autograph Party is open to the public, so you don't have to be registered for the conference to attend. It's a great place to see some of your favorite regional authors and meet the literary heavyweights speaking at the conference. And, they serve dessert!

This is always a fun event. It starts at 8:30, just after J. A. Jance's keynote speech. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter Is Here!

My copy landed on the front porch with a "THWAP" at about 10:50 this morning. The UPS guy literally dropped it and ran. I'm sure this is a crazy day for him.

I now own first editions of Book I and Book VII — and nothing in between. People often find it hard to believe, given the nature of my work, that I haven't read the series. But I have not.

I eagerly started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when it was still hot off the press. (As I recall, I preordered that from Amazon, too.) At the time I had just landed a new in-house editorial position, and the job quickly turned into a nightmare. I ended up abandoning Harry before I'd even read 100 pages. I can still practically feel my hands going limp and setting aside the book late one evening, as the growing weight of my new job squashed my ability to concentrate on much of anything else. I wanted to quit almost from the start, but my husband and I were in the midst of purchasing our first home (having factored my nice new salary into the decision), and I decided to tough it out. Things simply could not be as bad as they seemed, I reasoned; and even if they were, they couldn't possibly stay that way for long.

My reasoning failed me (always go with your gut!), and life — and my career — took a bizarre 4-year detour. It all worked out, though, as things tend to do. I survived the turmoil, contributed to the company's success, did work to be proud of, and made a few good friends. So I have no regrets. Just lots of stories and a much stronger sense of the work I'm meant to do. Can't complain about that.

Thing is, I used to blame that job for interfering with one of my most basic joys as a book lover, children's book author-editor, reviewer, and creator of literature-based curriculum materials: the joy of relishing (and forming opinions about) an important work the minute it's introduced to the public. Naturally, since I didn't finish the first book, I never bought the second. I was so caught up in my own world that I barely noticed the hoopla surrounding the publication of the next few titles in the series.

But times have changed for me, as I'm sure they have for the boy wizard. It's a new era. Three weeks ago I jumped on Amazon's discount-price-and-free-delivery bandwagon. And now Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is here!

I started reading this morning. The first book, I mean. I'll make it to the final book soon. But in the meantime, I wouldn't dream of skipping ahead to the end!

Friday, July 20, 2007

July 2007 "Hooked on Reading"

My monthly book review column went live today. Each of the 5 titles I selected is a great summer read for its targeted age group: Daddy and Me by Karen Katz; Bad Dog, Marley! by John Grogan; Magic Tree House Series, Books 1–4 by Mary Pope Osborne; The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan; and Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson.

The column's intended audience is parents who need great book ideas for their kids, but I encourage children's writers to check it out, too.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bargain Book Bonanza

I made a quick trip to my small neighborhood Barnes & Noble yesterday to pick up a bargain-priced title I'd ordered. I don't do a ton of shopping there because, frankly, I can get better prices and a wider selection online and at my favorite independent bookstores. I do frequently stop in, though, to take a look at books I might want to review (or purchase elsewhere).

Well, B&N apparently knew I was coming. Before I even made it inside, I'd filled my arms with $2 clearance books from the sidewalk carts. I got Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (16th edition; the 17th has been out for years, but I do not anticipate knowing what I'm missing); references on linguistics, the Middle Ages, ancient Egypt, and the Civil War; and a boater's handbook. I can use all of these for work, so that makes me happy.

I went straight to the library after that — again to pick up the one book I had on hold — and I left with two bulging bags of research for a project I'm doing on my own time.

Anyone else have a couple of nice, tall, wobbly book towers on your desk?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Biz Buzz: Harcourt Education Acquired

According to a PW Daily Alert, The HM Riverdeep Group has agreed to acquire Harcourt Education in 2008. You can read the full news item here.

I'm interested in this because (a) I occasionally write for Harcourt and know the changes will somehow affect me, and (b) industry-wide acquisitions and mergers like this continue to change the nature of freelance work for all of us.

With each similar shift in the business, I notice that:
  • The freelancer (writer, editor, illustrator, designer, etc.) gets further removed from editorial discussions and decisions.
  • Frequent staff turnover and changing in-house processes make it increasingly difficult for the freelancer to establish ongoing relationships with staff contacts.
  • It's common for the new regime to institute individual project/sweeping product line changes to match new editorial philosophies and publishing goals. So, existing projects get shuffled, shelved, or scrapped.
  • Publishers make personnel cuts and lose valuable staff expertise.
  • "Liberated" staff compete for freelance jobs or leave the industry altogether.
  • Freelancer fees take another hit.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Crossed Something Off My "Don't Be a Loser" To-Do List

I sent my letter about an hour ago. It went to three people: The publisher, my regular contact at the publishing house, and the attorney with whom I consulted on the situation. The attorney said that it looks great — one bit of positive feedback down, two bits to go. Fingers crossed on this lucky Friday the 13th!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

No Pain, No Gain

The quote for today in my daily planner is "Winners have simply formed the habit of doing things losers don't like to do." Someone named Albert Gray (should I know him?) said this, and I have to agree.

When I give talks or classes on writing, I like to harp on the most utterly basic part of the "How to be a writer" equation: To be a writer, you must write. A similar rule applies to the "How to get published" equation: To get published, you must submit your work. And, of course, to do that you're gonna have to write something. All the way to the end. (I know, weak so-called equations. But I'm tired and this is an of-the-moment blog post.)

Well today I saw the quote and felt like I'd been singled out as a LOSER. I am pretty good at being proactive and staying on top of work issues (you can't sustain a freelance business if you're not), but my reaction to the stupid quote told me that it was time to clear some emotional clutter and tackle a couple of things that I just don't like to do.

One of those oh-so-avoidable tasks was to write a letter requesting the termination of two (that's right, two!) stalled book contracts from 2005 (that's right, 2005!). I've been dragging my feet on the final follow-through because . . . well . . . just because. But the time has come to just get it over with. I wrote the letter this afternoon and will likely send it off tomorrow.

I'm truly hoping for a clean and pleasant break. Makes me a little sick, though.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Amazon Has (Some of) the Answers

I have two nonfiction books — a Ben Franklin biography and a history of the Great Chicago Fire — slated for release this month. I didn't know their official publication date till I saw it on Amazon a while back. (The author is always the last to know.) It's sooner than I expected, given that I wrapped up my work on them during the 2006–2007 holiday season. That seems like yesterday. The books I do for the school and library market usually take a good 18 months, 2+ years even, to make it to publication. One nice thing about the earlier pub date is that I still remember writing both books. With about 60 titles under my belt, sometimes I kinda don't.

I checked the Amazon listings today, just to see if cover images had been added or the books had gone on sale. No such luck. No mention of them at all yet on the publisher's site either. Oh well. Sooner or later, a box o' books will show up on my doorstep, and the cycle will be complete.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Through the Magic of Blogger . . .

I give you patriotic images from my four children's books about the Civil War. The magic part is that I'm posting this on June 29 but making it look like it's posting on Independence Day.

Enjoy the holiday!