Friday, June 29, 2007
Thursday, June 28, 2007
A view from the corner office
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I Must Go Down to the Beach Again
I decided to drop in on her story hour at the Harvard Co-Op two Saturdays ago. I worked closely with KJ over the last couple of months for our Poetry Contest and felt like I already knew her, although we had never met. There's nothing like meeting someone face to face. When I arrived, I was pleased to see two rows of little ones attentively listening to KJ's poems. The Co-Op certainly knows how to run a story hour. There were plenty of snacks (cookies and pretzels) to munch on and juice to wash it down.
KJ had plenty of props to keep the little ones captivated, including her beloved Beach Pig. After the reading, the young poetry enthusiasts made a beach craft, using sand paper, shells and a magnet. Not a bad idea at all. I'll have to keep that in mind for our next beach-related book.
The Co-Op also ran their own poetry contest. I was able to read the winning poems on their great display.
I was also pleasantly surprised to see illustrator Judy Love at KJ's and Beach Pig's side. It was the first time the two had met and they had much more in common than they realized. The two figured out that Judy painted a mural at a local Belmont elementary school that the entire Shapiro family attended.
If you missed Karen Jo at the Harvard Co-Op, fear not. She will be at Wellesley Booksmith this week Thursday and at Where the Sidewalk Ends at the end of July. It's as much fun as going to the beach.
Posted by Jenny
Monday, June 25, 2007
At the Charlesbridge booth authors and illustrators abounded. They were abounding all over the place, actually: Sneed Collard, Mitali Perkins, Anastasia Suen, Anne Sibley O'Brien, and Ellen Kushner. And the stopping by to say hi faction included Jeanne Pettenati, Pam Ryan, and Tina Headley.
Saturday was a very busy day and the excitement of the first day of exhibits filled the air. ALA is always like a class reunion, running into people you haven't seen since the year before... or longer. There's a lot of "I love your hair!" "Those are great shoes." "How was your trip to [fill in the blank]." And then, "Oh, yeah... show me the new books." Day one is fun, but by 5:00 my feet hurt.
On Sunday morning, I attended the Asian/Pacific American Library Association Book Awards at the lovely and palatialish JW Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Author/illustrator Anne Sibley O'Brien's book, The Legend of Hong Kil Dong, won the award in the picture book category. Everyone at the ceremony was glad to be there and there is an excitement about the building momentum of this award and the work of the APALA. I can't help feeling a little bit of residual pride that two other honored books - Justina Chen Headley's Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies) and Grace Lin's Year of the Dog - were written by Charlesbridge authors. Although we didn't publish these particular books, the authors are part of our family. And the editor of both of these books, Alvina Ling, used to intern at Charlesbridge. See, all roads lead from Charlesbridge.
On Sunday afternoon, Sneed Collard and editor Judy O'Malley spoke on a panel at a CBC program called "Search and Research: How Three Nonfiction Writers Navigate the Information Overload." Other panel members included Elizabeth Partidge and Regina Hayes of penguin and Sy Montgomery with editor Kate O'Sullivan from Houghton Mifflin. Attendees raved about the program later at Sneed's autographing.
The highlight of the show for many people was the opportunity to meet and get a signed book from author Judy Blume. I didn't, but from all reports, the long lines were worth the wait to meet the living legend.
A few highlights at the Charlesbridge booth, in case you're wondering: everyone wants Ralph Masiello's Dragon Drawing Book. Evidently, dragons make kids happy. Ox, House, Stick: The History of Our Alphabet surprised and delighted a lot of folks. And, being in D.C., Vinnie and Abraham was a favorite. Many people planned on visiting sculptor Vinnie Ream's masterpiece - the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Capitol Rotunda - during their stay in the city. The book is a perfect companion to appreciating this moving tribute to one of America's favorite historical figures.
I'm back in the office today, watching the firemen across the street testing the cherry picker -- I mean working. My colleagues are still at ALA, however, meeting with more librarians and authors and illustrators... walking the floor and talking face-to-face with the folks that make all that we do worthwhile. After ALA, you can't help but be re-energized and glad you're in the book business.
Posted by Donna.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Charity begins at home . . .
Or should I say, a homeless shelter. Last week I had the pleasure of accompanying Ralph Masiello on a visit to a brand new library at the homeless shelter run by Dimock Community Services in Roxbury, MA
Ralph was a HUGE hit with the pre-school children. It’s been years since I’ve seen Ralph in action and he is quite the performer. I had no idea that over the years children across the country who can’t remember, or pronounce, his name call him everything from Ralph Messy Jell-o to Ralph Macaroni and Cheese.
In addition to showing some of his original paintings and talking about reading and books, Ralph captivated the audience by showing the kids real skulls from a monkey and a skunk. He also had a model of a panda’s skull that he let the children touch. This was an experience these children will not soon forget.
And what would a visit from Ralph Masiello be without a drawing demonstration. Step-by-step Ralph showed us how to draw a ladybug, a sea horse, a dinosaur, and a dragon. But that didn’t satisfy one young boy who begged Ralph to draw – you guessed it ! – a SHARK.
Each child went back to school with a huge smile and a personalized bookmark signed by Ralph. I came back to the office grateful to Ralph for generously giving his time and to Charlesbridge for donating 100 books to this new library at the shelter.
So if your bookshelves are over-flowing with books or the stack of books on your nightstand is about to topple over and you’re thinking about what to do with those books that you don’t want to keep forever and ever, donate them to a shelter, your neighborhood health center, your local school . . .Share your books and spread the love of reading.
Posted by Mary Ann. More pictures from the visit are in the gallery at the right.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Growing a Book
Blog entry by Caroline Arnold:
Wiggle and Waggle gets the prize for the longest gestation period of any of my published books. I began writing stories about Wiggle and Waggle more than thirty years ago when my children were in preschool. Our family had recently moved from our tiny apartment in New York City to an old farmhouse in the country. One of the attractions of rural life was the chance to grow our own food. We picked apples in the orchard, tapped the maple trees for sap to make syrup, built a chicken coop, which we filled with fifty baby chicks we ordered from Sears, and behind the barn, in what had once been the barnyard, we dug a garden in the deep, rich earth. As we turned over the ground to prepare it for planting, we watched the worms wiggle back into the soil, after being so rudely exposed to the sunlight. Without the worms to aerate the soil and recycle the plant residue, our garden would not have been nearly so successful.
That first summer we put in tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, and zucchini. The plants sprang up practically overnight and I soon learned how to make pickles to use up the glut of cucumbers and zucchini. Our tomatoes hung heavy on the vines in huge clusters, but because we started the garden late, they had not yet ripened by the first frost in September. So, following instructions from our gardening book, we wrapped them in newspaper and brought them inside–all five hundred of them! They slowly turned red and we enjoyed the ripe fruit until Thanksgiving.
Our gardening knowledge came from reading books and trial and error. Each summer the plot grew larger, requiring more fence to keep the woodchucks at bay. One of the joys of winter was poring over seed catalogues with their colorful photos and hundreds of varieties of seeds. Should we plant blue lake or runner beans? White or red Swiss chard? Cherry, salad, or beefsteak tomatoes? Summer or winter squash? We chose the Little Sweetie pumpkin, good for both pies and jack-o-lanterns. The pumpkin vines always had minds of their own, climbing over the fence and trailing off into the field. Luckily woodchucks didn’t seem to like them.
We learned to follow the cycle of the seasons, planting cool weather crops as soon as we could work the ground. The first hot spell always provoked the lettuce to bolt, turning it bitter and telling us it was time to pull it out and plant summer vegetables. In the fall, we left our brussels sprouts in the ground to be picked after the first frost, which turned them sweet and mild. Almost everything we planted grew with little help from us, aside from occasional weeding. Our luck was the fertile garden soil, inhabited by industrious worms.
About the same time that I was learning to garden, I was immersing myself in the world of children’s books. Every two weeks, my son and daughter and I went to the library and checked out piles of books, which I read aloud before naps and at bedtime. We all loved the stories and pictures and I began to think that perhaps I could write stories too. Using our garden as inspiration, I created the characters of Wiggle and Waggle (then called Wilbur and Ronald.). I discovered that writing for children was harder than it looked. The original stories of Wiggle and Waggle were too long, not well connected, and the characters didn’t always motivate the action. I put the stories away and turned to other projects, but every now and then I would get them out and work on them again. One part that never changed was having the worms “write” words with the shape of their tunnels.
Like the seasons, my writing career has also come full cycle. I started writing when my own children were small and mainly focused on books for young readers. As my children grew up, I shifted to writing more for older readers. My son and daughter are now grown and have their own children, who have inspired me to go back to writing for younger readers. As I got out Wiggle and Waggle once again, I reshaped the manuscript into five stories for beginning readers. Finally, after thirty-one years, those stories have become a book. The writing of Wiggle and Waggle may illustrate the value of perseverance–or perhaps it was just one of those garden plants that didn’t mature in the first year, but required more time to reach its peak.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Reason # 764: Why Publish Foreign Language and Bilingual Books?
"Oh, you'll love it," she said. "It's huge and exciting, but stay close to the wall."
So, they left their nest and scurried into the kitchen. The baby mice were astounded. Everything was so big and there was so much. Mother Mouse taught them how to spot a crumb and run out into the open, snatch it, and bring it back to a safe corner. The pinky mice were having a grand time.
"Sigh," said Mother Mouse as she watched her little ones explore. Then, she felt as if she was being watched. She turned her head very slowly and came eye-to-eye with a very large cat. With nerves of steel, she backed closer to the wall and cried to her babies, "Come to me! Come to me!"
All the baby mice ran to their mother and huddled in close. Mother Mouse took a big breath and said, "Bow Wow!"
The cat screeched and, with terror in his eyes, ran away.
"Now, there," said Mother Mouse. "That is a fine example of why it is a good idea to have a second language."
Monday, June 11, 2007
We came, we saw, we sang!
Once Annie O'Brien and I found out that in our non-publishing lives we were both cabaret performers, we decided that fate was telling us to put together an act about the publishing process. We teamed up with Marilyn Salerno, the New England SCBWI regional advisor (and an accompanist for a number of musical theater productions),and performed the debut of A STARRED REVUE in Nashua, NH,on May 18th.
We strung together a series of songs that told the story of an author/illustrator and editor's relationship. The highs, the lows--it was all there. The audience laughed, cried, and it WAS better than CATS, if we say so ourselves.
A STARRED REVUE: Synopsis
Starring Yolanda LeRoy as "Yolanda"
and Anne Sibley O'Brien as "Annie"
(The casting decisions were tough.)
Annie introduces herself as an author/illustrator, and mentions how she met Yolanda at an SCBWI conference. Yolanda seems to be a bit of a diva, as she sweeps onto the
scene singing an adaptation of THIS PLACE IS MINE, from theYeston/Kopit version of PHANTOM ("It belongs all to me, every item that you see. The assistants and designers call me queen"). Her white feather boa flutters in the breeze as she rejects a line of prospective writers holding manuscripts. Oh, the pathos of it all! Now in her office, Yolanda reads Annie's latest submission and is overcome with joy at the sheer artistry of the book dummy (OH WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING). Annie is delighted at the news that Yolanda, the editorial director of MegaMongo Publishers, is interested in publishing her book (I COULD HAVE DANCED ALL NIGHT), but she keeps her cool during the negotiations process and finagles a gigantic advance (HEY, BIG SPENDER). Then, without warning, tragedy strikes--Yolanda is leaving for another publisher (HOW COULD I EVER KNOW, from THE SECRET GARDEN). Annie's book is orphaned, and no one at MegaMongo returns Annie's calls (WHAT DID I HAVE THAT I DON'T HAVE). But all is not lost for our heroine. In a dramatic, emotionally layered scene sure to win Tony awards for both actresses, Yolanda calls Annie with the news that New Press Books is interested in another of Annie's projects. The dynamic duo will be reunited again (EVERYTHING'S COMING UP ROSES). The happy pair reflects on their emotional journey
and sing (what else?) THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE BOOK BUSINESS, endingthe show. The crowd goes wild. Good night, Nashua. We love ya.
(submitted by Yolanda)
Friday, June 8, 2007
BEA: An Editor's Recap
My first appointment was a no-show. My next appointment: also a no-show.
Sigh--that's BEA for ya. But during that time I met an sales rep from a company that makes custom maps--could be a useful contact.
Rosemary Stimola (Dianna Aston's agent) stopped by, and we chatted for a while. I showed her Sue Rama's books, as I knew she'd love Sue's art.
Janet Ginsburg (Stewart Murphy's publicity person) also stopped by. We had a long talk about her other projects (she's a freelance journalist, has a few interesting websites going).
Next, Alyssa Pusey (Charlesbridge editor) and I met up for drinks with Kara LaReau, editor at Scholastic (formerly of Candlewick). Kara was the editor of BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE, among other fabulous books, and is a successful picture book author herself. We had a good schmooze session and caught a cab to the Copacabana for the ABC Dinner.
I caught up with various publishing friends during the cocktail hour. Ralph Masiello was our guest at the dinner table, and he was fantastic! He engaging and entertaining. He brought limited edition prints for them, walked around the table and talked and listened--really made the guests feel welcome, forging a personal connection they will remember for long time. Unlike so many personable authors, Ralph didn't make it all about him. He was a thoughtful and respectful "host." I hear we're trying to book him for NEIBA.
At dinner, I had a lovely chat with two of our guests, Ken and Mary Lou Manske from The Book Look in Stevens Point, WI. Kim (Courchesne) and I also had a chance to talk about marketing/editorial relations and various book projects; a fruitful discussion.
This was an amazing day all around. Only three of the six guests showed up for the tour of the Museum of Natural History, alas (maybe they didn't realize that it was a small event?), but those of us who were there will not soon forget it. Darrin Lunde (pronounced LUN-dee) is a fascinating person, and OK, so he happens to look like Tom Cruise. A sane, two-feet-on-the-floor, taller, much more intelligent Tom Cruise. I learned a ton about the field of mammology, about the museum, and about being a curator. We saw several specimen vaults and the library stacks where they keep the field journals of the scientists on expedition (going back a hundred years!). The museum itself is an interesting piece of architecture, and Darrin knew all the back passageways and seemed to have an access key for everything. He wanted to work at the museum since he was a little boy, and his love of his job was truly inspiring to see. He's off to Gabon later this year to do more fieldwork. What a life.
I was really interested in how the Museum's work crosses so many
disciplines: lots of science, of course, but also anthropology, geography, and as Pat Wynne stressed in her portion of the talk--art. The dioramas of African animals in the first floor of the museum seemed ordinary until Pat explained how they were created and their historical significance; the room will be a named a historical landmark at some point, no doubt.
We saw elephant skulls and teeth, whale vertebrae, a crazy rodent with no face, and countless other treasures. My favorite stop on the tour was the room of the flesh-eating beetle (I'm so juvenile), used to strip the skulls and bones of specimens clean. The beetles are kept in sealed crates in a room with a strip of gooey sealant across the doorway so they don't get out.
The stench in the room was pretty impressive. Pretty darn cool.
After the tour, I met with Darrin for about an hour to discuss book projects. We focused his approach for his chapter book series and talked about what other animals could follow up MEERKAT and BUMBLEBEE BAT. He also had a neat idea about a stand-alone nature picture book. It was a dynamic discussion, and I was reminded again how important in-person meetings can be as far as developing ideas. It's much easier to "read" someone and figure out how to be most helpful. I really enjoy the challenge of facilitating creative expression, especially with an author like Darrin who has so many interesting stories to tell. And speaking of enjoyment, I also really enjoyed the huevos rancheros and margaritas that Darrin, Pat, and I had at the amazing Mexican restaurant across the street from the museum. Life as an editor has its perks.
Back at the booth, I met Ellen Kushner for the first time and had a fabulous conversation about her Interstitial Arts Foundation, which promotes books (and other art forms) that defy categorization. The organization is trying to raise consciousness for these kinds of books and generate discourse about them. In publishing, we know the challenge of getting a book out there when it doesn't neatly fall into categories ("But where do I shelve it?"). But many of today's innovative, interesting titles refuse to fit neatly into categories. Our own HONG KIL DONG comes to mind. I'll be percolating about this more in the months to come, but it strikes me that a panel discussion or workshop at an SCBWI might be a good place to start talking about the opportunities, and challenges, of these types of work. And let's not ignore books that incorporate other artistic media--i.e. a picture book about
dance: how does an artist capture motion and movement on a static page? How can a picture book capture the feeling of a piece of music? Art that connects to other modalities of artistic expression is only richer for it.
Though difficult to categorize and promote.
I also chatted with Deborah Kogan Ray, who seems very excited about her art for FLYING EAGLE. Looks like we'll make the due date! Deborah is quite well-connected and well-published, and it's always good to see her and check in on her work.
Then Alyssa and I were off to dinner with Harold Underdown and his family.
His daughter Simone (almost six) is absolutely adorable, and I used her shamelessly as a living laboratory; we read WIGGLE AND WAGGLE, JUSTINA ALBERTINA, and AGGIE AND BEN at the restaurant. Plus she taught me to tap dance and curtsy. In front of the entire patio. She's a great reader, and it was interesting to see how she approached the books. We editors always think we know a book inside and out by the time it gets published, but leave it to a kid to make us see it in a new way. The most touching moment of the evening was when Simone asked if I could take her to the potty instead of her mom. The ultimate compliment!
For me, Saturday encapsulated the work we editors do (uh, not the potty part, though). We seek out and develop writers, helping them tell the stories they are burning to tell (meeting with Darrin Lunde); we talk about books and what they mean, figuring out how to get the word out and make connections (discussion with Ellen Kushner); and we make books that teach kids to read and make sense of the world around them (Simone). I was getting chills, I tell ya!
And that's all she wrote.
Posted by Yolanda
Charlesbridge Goes to the Bowling Alley
Despite Donna's natural prowess for the sport (it's genetic; her aunt was a professional bowler) and a last ditch effort on my part in the 10th frame (I got a strike and a spare!), we were no competition for Brent who wowed us all with his bowling form. For some reason, my camera malfunctioned whenever I tried to capture the moment of his ten pins dropping. You'll just have to take my word for it. Here is the final score:
JD accomplished a persona best of a score of 50+. The Most Improved Bowler Award goes to Melanie who made a valiant comeback. Here's Melanie showing great form and lined up for the spare:
In the end, we were all winners -- raffle ticket winners, that is. Melanie won two tickets to the Boston Symphony and a style and cut at Salon Acote on Newbery. Brent won tickets to the Brattle Theatre and the Huntington Theatre. Donna won tickets to Lyric Stage.
Thanks to Laura Feczko (Candlewick) and the rest of the ReadBoston crew for sponsoring a great event.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Jenny goes to the Big Apple and the Big BEA
I got into the City late Friday night. My friend, Sean Crowley of Marshall Cavendish, was waiting for me at the Fung Wah – that’s right I took the Fung Wah – drop-off. After an even later dinner in Little Italy, we made the trek back to his apartment in the
With the likes of Ken Burns, Alan Alda, Khaled Hosseini, and Alan Greenspan walking around, there was one face I didn't expect to see: Dog the Bounty Hunter. I was so surprised by his presence that I felt compelled to take a picture sure that no one would believe me. The one signing I considered standing in line for was Stephen Colbert’s. The line was far too long, so I did the next best thing. I took a picture of myself with his cardboard doppelganger. Look how excited we are to see each other, just like old friends.
I tried to avoid the Charlesbridge booth for fear of crowding it, but my efforts were futile. It was like fighting gravity. I met with Lisa Greening of Left Bank Books, who has done wonderful things for the literary community in
By the end of the day, my feet were aching. I looked forward to the bus ride back to
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Day one - the publishers day one, where we set up in the non-air conditioned hall - is one of my favorite days. Struggling with a 30 foot vinyl sign while the union guys look on and laugh at me. That's a special memory. But it's the ABC dinner, this year on Friday night, that makes all the planning, manual labor, and expense of BEA worthwhile. This year, the Charlesbridge table was situated next to the folks from Little, Brown and in particular I was right behind author Sherman Alexie. We were a little star struck, but I figured we were all here for the same reason, right? Colleagues. So I introduced myself. What an absolutely nice guy. Holla! Sherman. You can give Adam Beach the office phone number, by the way.
Except for Sunday, which is always a slow march, I felt BEA was very busy. Charlesbridge is not a huge company and we don't throw big lavish parties, but we like to mix and mingle and do fun things. And this year we have the privilege and the good fortune to publish two books - Meet the Meerkat and Hello, Bumblebee Bat - by Darrin Lunde and Pat Wynne. Both Darrin and Pat work at the American Museum of Natural History. They very graciously agreed to give us, and a few of our favorite booksellers and librarians, a behind the scenes look at the things that go bump in the attic at the museum. Jealous much? You have to know someone to see some of the stuff Darrin and Pat showed us, such as the flesh-eating bugs that clean the bones of the critters that you will see on display.
Check out the gallery to the right to see all the neat behind the scenes stuff at the museum.
While some of us went to the museum on Saturday morning, others of us went to the CBC love fest speed dating event at Javits. Author Ellen Kushner and I, Charlesbridge's Donna Spurlock, traveled from table to table a very quick 21 times to meet booksellers, librarians, and teachers for a 3-minute date. Ellen did very well... I'm still waiting for my phone to ring. Typical. I've got to get my own klezmer orchestra like Ellen.
On Saturday, I also attended Ralph Masiello's autographing session in the autographing area. Dave Holton and his crew are amazing, magical people who can make that craziness happen without a hitch. When I hear from him in February, I really don't want to think about BEA, but I'm so glad that he's out there making sure our authors have a place to sit and sign their books. Especially when it's Ralph Masiello and his Dragon Drawing Book. The line was huge and never-ending and the requests coming from all around us was a little overwhelming (sorry to all those folks who asked but didn't get a book. Dave's rules! You gotta wait in line and one per customer). But Ralph just took it in stride and signed away and chatted with everyone.
All in all, I thought BEA was a great event this year. Thanks to everyone who stopped by our booth. If you were one of the lucky ones to get a galley of The Golden Dreydl or Camel Rider, we'd love to have your feedback.
See you at ALA in D.C.!