Monthly Archives: July 2009

From The Pits Of The Slush Pile – A Poem

Found in the July/August 09 issue of the SCBWI newsletter… I hope you find this (scarily accurate) poem as hilarious as I did!  After two months of reading hideous/inappropriate book dummies and unsolicited cover letters about as bad as this one, there is nothing I could say that describes my job better than this.  

Cheers to the slush pile – and the interns who reject them. 

 

From The Pits of The Slush Pile – By William Peery

You were randomly chosen to get the first look

at my marvelous, moral-filled, new picture-book

Samantha the Snail’s Uncontrollable Slime – 

it’s ninety-one pages of near-perfect rhyme. 

 

Come ride with a snail on a slippery cruise

as she learns it’s okay to excessively ooze. 

With hundreds of snail facts I’ve made learning fun,

and the drawings were done by my five-year-old son.

 

My hairstylist said it’s incredibly clever;

my daughter declared it the best story ever.

And what makes it brilliant and truly sublime

is I’ve coated the pages with genuine slime

(I ran out of snails, so I used a few worms.)

I’ll phone you on Friday to tell you my terms.

 

Your newest author, 

Auntie McMeter

P.S. I’m just about finished with book number two:

Dakota the Dog’s Uncontrollable Poo.

Confessions Of A Foodie Part II – Kids Love Food, Too!

yelling orange with plumIn celebration of my foodie obsessions . . . here’s a top 5 list for the kids!

Top 5 Food-Related Children’s Books I Love:

1. How Are You Peeling?  by Saxton Freymann and Joost Eiffers (Arthur A. Levine Books) – Foods with moods.  I am more than happy to find daily reminders of this creative childhood obsession on the counter of Pratt’s Pie Shop cafe.

2.  Strega Nona by Tomie DePaola (G. P. Putnam’s) – I got my nickname “Strega Nona” from manic episodes of all-nighter pasta-making . . . and shouting children’s book references (“I’m f*ing Strega Nona!”) as I attempt to cook my own recipes.

3.  Jamberry by Bruce Degen (HarperCollins) – A small child’s bacchanalia.  Really.

4.  Gingerbread Houses For Kids by Jennifer A. Ericsson and Beth L. Blair (White Birch Press) – Shameless plug for my mother’s self-published cookbook.  But seriously, making gingerbread houses is my favorite winter activity, and no one does it better than they do. 

5.  Chicken Soup With Rice by Maurice Sendak (HarperCollins) – 

In July I’ll take a peep

Into the cool and fishy deep

Where chicken soup is sellin’ – cheap! 

Selling once, selling twice, selling Chicken Soup With Rice!

Confessions Of A Wanna-be Foodie

I have to a confession to make.  

Despite my inedible baking disasters (ask my sorority sisters), perpetual lack of groceries/clean dishes (ask my roommate), and habit of buying all my meals at the deli (ask my bank account . . . and the guy who knows my sandwich order by memory) – I’m obsessed with the culinary world.  Maybe it has something to do with the fascination of watching an art that I can’t seem to master.  Maybe I’m just always hungry.  But it started with Top Chef . . . and now it’s taking over my book choices, too.  

imageDB.cgiYesterday, I finished my latest (free!  gotta love publishing) subway read, Food Of Love, a light and enjoyable romance by Anthony Capella.  In a predictable, but lovable, series of comedic twists, flashy waiter Tommasso seduces a beautiful American art history student, Laura, by pretending to cook the food of his quiet chef friend, Bruno.  Naturally, Bruno’s in love with Laura, Laura’s in love with Bruno’s food, and all hell breaks loose like a boiling pot of pasta.  

I couldn’t help it – just like the gotta-watch-it appeal of a Bravo TV Show, I’m completely enamored with just reading the recipes and the names of all the seductive Roman dishes – zabaione, coda alla vaccinara, abbacchio alla caccciatiore, pappardelle al sugo di lepre . . . bravo!  bravo!  

Now I’m on to a different take on food (one that’s not so likely to get one “in the mood”, per se), The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan.  I was delighted to find it sitting on my desk yesterday, as a little gift from the Penguin gods, in celebration of their 75th 74th anniversary (Happy Birthday, Penguin!).  It is said to take you back to the basics of food . . . maybe it will help me improve on my own culinary skills.

What’s Hot… And What’s Not: Current Trends In Children’s Book Publishing

Last night after work, I remembered to head to midtown for the latest panel put on by the Children’s Book Group of the Author’s Guild – and I wasn’t disappointed.  Author and chair Rachel Vail moderated to a packed crowd at the Scandinavia House on 38th St, to discuss “What’s Hot And What’s Not: Current Trends In Children’s Book Publishing”.  Aka . . . vampires.  

Authors and enthusiasts of all ages came to hear Kim Brown, VP of Merchandise, Barnes and Noble; Lisa Desimini, author/illustrator; David Levithan, author of Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Exec. Editorial Director at Scholastic; and Marcia Wernick, literary agent at Sheldon Fogelman.  With these bigwigs speaking, it’s not surprising that I picked up a LOT of good info.  Here’s what they had to say . . . 

Kim Brown got things rolling with a quick run-down of, literally, what is selling (and she’s buying!).  If it’s pink, purple, and sparkly – it’s selling.  If it’s dark, purple, and is a vampire book – it’s selling.  In a nutshell.

Lisa Desimini gave a refreshing, and to me, the most relatable, perspective.  She encouraged her fellow authors to not simply jump on every trend that is selling at the moment because, by the time you try to ride the wave, it’ll be over.  Instead, follow your heart and your taste, and just be open to new challenges (like her bestseller, Dog The Fire Dog).   But, speaking of vampires, she does the covers for the True Blood series.  

Next, lone male David Levithan took the publisher’s point-of-view, and spoke about where new media is going to take the industry.  Essentially, he was encouraging, because even though we are on the brink of major change (like the music industry, circa 2000), technology is not going to replace books – it’s going to give more options to the way that we read, write and learn.  And picture books aren’t going anywhere.  Phew.  

Marcia Wernick wrapped it up with the agent, aka. the middleman’s, story. She said that, regardless of trends, great content, powerful characters, and that magic “hook” will always start the next wave.  

Opening the floor for questions, the conversation turned to the NEXT wave – after vampires – the distopia.  I’ve heard of the book, Hunger Games, that represents that next fad for YA, and I think I better pick it up.  Because, as YA dominates, it crosses over with the trends of adult literature.  Example – 40 year old stockbrokers reading Twilight on the subway.  

Other tidbits of useful information for aspiring authors/illustrators:

1.  GET AN AGENT.  It’s a bunny-eat-bunny world out there.

2.  Make sure you know what rights you are giving away, because the contracts signed today will be the ones in the spotlight when major changes happen in the industry.

3.  Sales figures and awards don’t correlate – so don’t stress about winning Caldecotts any time soon. 

4.  Librarians are Twittering!!   And so is Mo Willem’s pigeon.  And after this talk, so will a lot of little old lady writers.  

5.  Teens rule.  

– ABE

Hope For The Flowers (and for hippies everywhere!)

Found among the dusty shelves of The Community Bookstore in Cobble Hill, a 1973 children’s novel called Hope For The Flowers, written and illustrated by Trina Paulus.  

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“A Tale – Partly about life, partly about revolution, and lots about hope for adults and others (including caterpillars who can read).”  Sounds like the ’70s!

I picked it up – and spent my grocery money to bring it home – because, let’s face it, I’m a huge sucker for a book with a textured paper and entirely written in hand lettering.  The book has a graphic feel that seems like it was personally doodled for you, and the linear illustrations are carefully highlighted in shades of olive and yellow.  Mmm.

 

The story is a thinly (okay – NOT at all) veiled metaphor for screwing the capitalist “man” and finding glorious, hippie enlightenment, with a cast of . . . fuzzy caterpillars?  Yep, “Stripe” and his love, “Yellow”, meet climbing the corporate ladder, I mean, pillar of other caterpillars, clawing each other to get to the top, and decide to forsake the ladder for making some easy, breezy, caterpillar love and smoking eating grass.  

But Stripe is not content, and abandons Yellow to go back to the pillar and succeed in getting to the top – only to realize that there’s nothing there (get it?).  Meanwhile, Yellow learns to look within herself, let go, and transform into a shining butterfly.  When Stripe finally makes it back down, she helps him see that there’s a butterfly in every one of us . . . caterpillar. 

I was fascinated by the design and highly entertained by the look back at bohemian “revolutionary” ideals, but overall, I really don’t like philosophy dumped in my coffee – or in my children’s literature.  I much prefer stories to be just as they are, because trying to be blunt about making a point makes the writing suffer – there’s too much explaining involved.  

I also don’t believe that “enlightenment” is such a tangible state, either.  There’s not a black and white of contentment between those who are driven to take part in mainstream America and those who don’t.  I think happiness comes in a variety of forms for different people – and questing for the magic way to be forever a “butterfly” will probably leave you disappointed. 

Hope For The Flowers, which I judged as a precious old find but actually has sold over 2 million copies, is definitely worth picking up – if only to see how different attitudes are now (and look at the rad hand-drawn look!). Peace Out!

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Publishing Fashionista

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You think that those of us in children’s book publishing aren’t the most fashion-forward people in the city?  Well then, check ME out getting stopped buying an overpriced iced mocha outside Penguin (345 Hudson) for this blog, Pink Cupcake and Bunny!

Lopsided (This Book Is Wonderfully Distracting)

9780143115632HJust sat down with some afternoon caffeine to finish my latest read, Lopsided: How Having Breast Cancer Can Be Really Distracting, a memoir by Meredith Norton.  This is exactly the kind of book that I love to read, as it combines two of my favorite pastimes: laughing inappropriately while traveling on the subway, and laughing inappropriately at serious and uncomfortable subjects.

Her point of view is fantastic because she never makes any pretensions about having some kind of enlightenment, or becoming a stronger/weaker person, because of her harrowing cancer experience.  Just because something threatened her way of life, doesn’t mean that her way of thinking changed (although there are poignant moments too).  And trust me, her way of thinking is hilarious!

“Every day of chemo that I ate a Krispy Kreme doughnut or took a nap instead of doing yoga I cursed Lance Armstrong and his toned abs, tiny butt, and three kinds of cancer.  ‘F you, Lance Armstrong.” I muttered as I sucked down my Dr. Pepper, “You can park your bike right here and kiss my ass.’ ” (p. 133)

(Plus, a FAB graphic cover design, yes?)

Similar Things I Like:

I Was Told There’s Be Cake, by Sloane Crosley (my hero!)

Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim, by David Sedaris (classic classic)

– Oh, and anything, anything Sarah Vowell!