Something very exciting has been happening; the ARCs (advanced reader copies) of my book SHIRA AND ESTHER’S DOUBLE DREAM DEBUT are making their way into the world! After working on a book for years and years (and years) it’s been pretty fantastic to finally have people read it.
I’m grateful for the reception that Shira and Esther have found. On Instagram, Ari’s Book Addiction posted a lovely review for Jewish American Heritage Month. You can view that here!
That caught the eye of Afoma over at the blog Reading Middle Grade, and she included Shira and Esther in a list of 25 Best Jewish Middle-Grade Books. The post features “middle grade books by Jewish authors about Jewish kids,” where the character’s Jewish identity is integral to the story. Thank you, Afoma for recognizing the need for this representation! Sign up for her Friday Kidlit Newsletter with weekly roundups, kidlit resources, and more.
Are you a bookstagram influencer, podcast producer, or blog editor who focuses on children’s books and/or Jewish representation? I’d love to introduce you to Shira and Esther! Please leave me a note on the contact page and I’ll let my publicist know you need an ARC too. And if you discover Shira and Esther on the internet or IRL, please leave a message or tag me @annawritedraw!
Remember how my last post promised updates? Here they are!
First, my ARCs (advanced reader copies) came in the mail from Chronicle Books and I was excited enough to try an Instagram reel speaking direct-to-camera. Uncomfortable? Perhaps. Authentic? Definitely. Please follow me there @annawritedraw
I had a blast sitting for my author photos with National Geographic photographer, Becky Hale. Because I knew her in another capacity, I felt very comfortable and she turned out photo after photo that were just stunning. Here’s one of my favorites. I’m so grateful!
The ARCs don’t have the final book cover, but I’m thrilled to share that with you today. Illustrator Marco Guadalupi created this fun cover that captures both the similarities and differences of Shira and Esther. I love how he subtly transmits Shira’s vigor and Esther’s studiousness. The Idylldale tenements and the story landmarks of the theater, The Heights, and the synagogue all become a theatrical background framed by the canned spotlights and the title marquee. More on the cover soon!
After so many years of working on the manuscript for SHIRA AND ESTHER’S DOUBLE DREAM DEBUT, it’s amazing to see the book–the thing that people will hold in their hands and actually read– becoming a reality. If you preorder the book from my local indie bookstore, Politics and Prose, you’ll get a signed book and additional swag! The book is also available for preorder anywhere you buy books.
With the humidity, it feels as if it’s over 90ºF here in the DMV. So find yourself some AC, a fan, and a cold glass of lemonade and get busy reading some phenomenal books. (I’m hoping that my students read at least one this summer!)
Here are some middle-grade and YA that I’ve loved over the past few weeks. If there’s a date on it, that means it’s an ARC (Advanced Readers Copy). A few of those won’t be out for purchase until the fall.
Here’s my To Be Read (TBR) pile. It keeps getting bigger, but I’m trying to use the library too. Some came out last year and some are brand new. If you read any, leave me a message and tell me what you thought.
Welcome to a new occasional feature I’m calling #MarketingMonday. This is a place for authors to learn about book marketing from each other and those in the industry. The feature will include helpful website links, interviews, and brainstorms.
Today, an interview with debut middle-grade author Ginger Johnson whose book The Splintered Light (Bloomsbury) just launched last week! If you missed the summary, check my last post here!
Ginger, welcome and thank you for visiting Creative Chaos! What surprised you about the publishing and book launch process?
I suppose what surprised me most (even though EVERYONE told me this) is how much time I spent on things other than writing. I learned so many new technologies and applications to support my marketing efforts. At times, I felt very much like an old dog trying to learn new tricks, but I have a slew of new skills that I hadn’t anticipated.
You’ve been Instagram-ing like crazy! Have your engagement and follow numbers changed?
I haven’t kept track of specific numbers, although I do know I’ve gained probably 100-150 new followers. I used to follow more than be followed, and that has reversed now.
That’s exciting! What was the best marketing advice you got from a fellow author?
One of my fellow 2018 debuts (I can’t remember who or I’d attribute) shared a spreadsheet she had made to keep track of what marketing she was doing and when she needed to do it. I made a similar spreadsheet about six months out to form a concrete plan and to keep track of what I needed to do. If I hadn’t done that, I probably wouldn’t have done much marketing at all, or else I would have turned into the Stress Queen while trying to do everything.
Another good piece of advice came from Julie Berry who told me that I only have one debut and that I should do as many events as possible.
I love the advice to keep track of all your marketing activities. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and duplicate efforts or drop something—especially with a debut. What was the best advice or help you got from the marketing team at Bloomsbury?
My publicist at Bloomsbury (Lizzy Mason) is incredibly wonderful. She’s always been a source of cheer and encouragement, and she’s arranged some great opportunities for me to meet with booksellers and schools across the country.
Did you give yourself a budget and if so, what did you spend it on?
I did all of my design work myself (website, book trailer, bookmarks, banner, etc) saving my budget for printing some high-quality swag—really nice bookmarks and large round stickers. I also had a banner printed for bookstore events.
The majority of my budget is being spent on travel. Even though Bloomsbury is generously sending me on a book tour and to NCTE this year, I booked some additional trips to reach audiences in other parts of the country.
I saw that you have a LONG list of venues you’ll visit on your tour. That banner will make it easier for book buyers to identify you as the author and not a store employee. (“Where’s the…adult nonfiction, bathroom. etc…”) How exciting for your new readers.
What aspect of your marketing plan are you most excited about?
I’m excited about my school visits planned during my book tour. I don’t think there’s anything quite like seeing your book in the hands of your intended audience.
Absolutely! Is there anything else you learned or that you discovered that I didn’t ask about?
Marketing is a beast that can consume all your creative energy. It’s ok to not do everything. Some people blog, some people have newsletters, some people tweet incessantly. Once I stopped looking at the marketing everyone else was doing and gave myself permission to do what felt comfortable for me, the marketing became manageable rather than overwhelming.
The other day I spent a good long time at my local AMAZING library (Curtis Memorial Library) with our incredible Youth Services Librarians and my Goodreads TBR list. Of course my eyes are way bigger than my metaphorical reading stomach can handle. The mathematical equation of my relationship with library books looks like this:
Check out time allowed – my reading speed = not enough time for everything I took.
Sometimes that doesn’t matter because truthfully, there’s nothing like the feeling of walking out of the library with a massive pile of books and more on the way from Interlibrary Loan (A Psalm for Lost Girls by Katie Bayerl).
After the library, I finally (how did it get to be August) excavated my patio chaise lounge from the back of the garage (still haven’t gotten to my bike *covers head in shame*), dusted off the cobwebs, and set it in the Maine sunshine to read.
The picture book haul was excellent. For me, Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin (Random House Kids) was a delight. It is wordless and uses sequential art and framing as in a graphic novel. Reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz, the blue-grey monochromatic palette gives way to full color as the main characters travel from the real to the fantasy world through an topiary archway. I was “reading” the book to my man-children and they were frustrated with my narration of the silent story. (Mom. We can see what’s happening.) Perhaps the book is best for consuming on one’s own or allowing the child to tell you what is happening.
Weighing in a just over 35,000 words, the first draft of my newest middle grade novel is now complete.
Calm down cute, fluffy, puppy. Complete is a misleading word as there are still many miles to go before it is actually finished.
No, no. Don’t be a sad panda. Now I’ll set the draft aside to marinade, pickle, steep, sleep (Oh, sorry. That’s what I should be doing now since it is past midnight…). Normally, I’d let it rest for two weeks to a month, but I’d love to get it off my desk by the new year (resolutions and all), so I may speed up the process. Next comes a revision, then beta readers, more revisions, and a thorough edit after that.
Creative Chaos welcomes new readers who are coming here to follow G.A. Morgan’s blog tour for the Kirkus starred review book, The Kinfolk. This blog is called “Creative Chaos” for a reason. Not only do creators exist in a world that pulls them in various crazy, stressful directions, but the process of making art of any media is a wonderful jumble of ideas and leads, backtracks and revisions. It’s messy and often—yes—chaotic. Ernie D’Elia is an illustrator who understands the chaos of creation. He fashions three dimensional worlds from nothing. He draws. He paints. He writes. (All images that follow are property of Ernie D’Elia and Islandport Press and may not be used without permission.)
Ernie and I met through New England SCBWI and attended a wonderful intensive by Lita Judge about breaking into kidlit illustration by focussing on book covers. The next thing I knew, Ernie was sharing his cover design for The Fog of Forgetting, the first in the Five Stones Trilogy (#5stonesbooks) by G.A. Morgan, published by Islandport Press. This week, The Kinfolk, the final installment of that trilogy launched. Welcome, Ernie!
Q. Tell us a little about your professional journey (or chaos) that led you to illustrate the Five Stones Trilogy. Was The Fog of Forgetting your first cover? What other professional illustration jobs did you have before this?
A. Thanks for inviting me to talk about creating the covers for the Five Stones Trilogy, and creating in general!
The Fog of Forgetting was not my first cover. The first was a really fun adventure story called “How to Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy King.” There was a great up-lit Mayan King with a jaguar headdress, looming over the heroes.
Q. Wow, I love the light! In the workshop we took together, Lita stressed the importance of being open to revision and brainstorming a large quantity of cover ideas. Once you got the job, did your first drawing get approved? How did you land on the final art for book one?
A. Fog of Forgetting went through a handful of sketch ideas, then a couple roughs, and one or two changes in the final drawing.
My favorite idea (sketch #4) did not make the cut, but looking back, it wasn’t the best fit.
Sketch #2 was too crowded, but the tree, platform and waterfall were on target.
Sketch round 2 #2 was almost there, but he looked too tentative. In the final art, he’s gripping a sword, looking heroic.
That’s why flexibility is really important! It’s hard to be objective when you’re in the throes of making stuff. Trust in your editor/art director!
Q. What is your process choosing the scene you’d like to portray? Do you read each of the books before you start drafting cover ideas or are you given a synopsis?
A. I don’t always get the entire manuscript. Usually there are a few select scenes to work with, luckily. I would probably overwhelm everyone with sketches of every scene–“Let’s make this a graphic novel!” written on every page.
Q. Which book cover was the most difficult to create and why? How did you find a solution?
A. The trickiest by far was Chantarelle, the second book. Islandport had a specific set of requirements for this one. The characters are falling into a chasm, an explosion propels them up and out, AND there’s a giant black panther after them. The perspective alone was a challenge, not to mention 5 desperate reaching hands. There were way too many sketches of that cover to share, let’s just say there was a heaping pile of trial and error, and a steaming bowl of failure, until it was all worked out. Creative chaos at its best!
In direct opposition to that one, Kinfolk was two drawings, some minor tweaking, and right into the final. It’s my favorite of the three.
Q. Each book features various characters from the stories. Tell us a little bit about your process of character creation.
A. Creating characters from G.A. Morgan’s work wasn’t difficult because they were so well written. I felt like I had a clear idea of each person. I think it was Annie O’Brien that said you shouldn’t draw characters, you should draw people. A character can easily become a cartoon, but a person is an individual; not a stereotype, not an archetype. That’s especially true when portraying people of ethnic backgrounds that are not your own.
Q. No illustrator is an island, and you worked with Islandport Press children’s editor, Melissa Kim. How did Melissa guide you in this process? Was she more hands on or off? Were there any particular suggestions she gave that were especially helpful to you as an illustrator that you’d be willing to pass on here?
A. Melissa was great to work with! Her input was always spot-on. It was her suggestion to change the posture of Chase (on the first cover) from frightened to more bold. She was hands on, as far as being involved in guiding the process, and was always there to answer questions. I had a great time working on these books with her! Like I said before, trust your art director!
Thanks so much for visiting Creative Chaos today, Ernie!
Thanks for having me on the blog! See you soon, hopefully!
If you missed the other blog posts on this week’s tour, I’ve listed them below. Don’t miss the world debut of the book trailer tomorrow!
Monday, October 24: G.A. Morgan Lists Her Top Ten Fantasy Books for Kids on Pragmatic Mom.
Here’s Kirkus Reviews had to say in their starred review about The Kinfolk:
“Morgan holds the complex plot deftly, alternating the third-person narration through the points of view of several main characters (Dankar, Chase, Knox, Evelyn) chapter by chapter. With clarity and economy, she intertwines back story, setting, adventure, and philosophy in convivial balance, and she admirably maintains the individuality of her very large cast of characters (helpfully delineated in a guide at the back). She tests her characters sorely and sometimes violently, but it’s always in service of the plot. Teeming with adventure and philosophical richness, this trilogy closer excels.”
As usual, things are busy here at Creative Chaos. The job with Islandport Press that I spoke about here, became a permanent part-time position. My new title is “Editor & Special Projects,” which means that each day comes with new surprises. I love the dynamic nature of my position as well as the creative and collaborative problem solving that goes on every day. I’ve feeling very lucky.
I also feel lucky to be amongst books every day. It often means that there is just one more book to put on my virtual To Be Read pile. (You can see all 403 of them here.)
Most of my reading happens at night once I’ve pulled up the covers and turned on my bedside lamp. It’s a chance to push aside the virtual, plugged-in world for a literary one. Usually I’m asleep after a few pages (sometimes with my glasses still on and the book slipping to the floor) so the reading is slow going. Sometimes, however, a story takes hold of me, and I am transported to those flashlight-under-the-covers moments I had as a child.
Recently, two books made me feel that I absolutely had to finish the story before sleeping.
The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
From Goodreads: Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.
My take: I was so moved by Ada’s story, her strength, her heart, her head. Brubaker Bradley is an amazing storyteller who isn’t protective of her characters and we are the better for it. All the female characters are unique and strong (and flawed) in their own way. An argument could be made that even Ada’s despicable mother shows strength against impoverished conditions in the only way she knows how. In addition to well-realized characters, we also get treated to beautiful but spare description of the English countryside.
Wrecked by Maria Padian
From Goodreads: When Jenny accuses Jordan of rape, Haley and Richard are pushed to opposite sides of the school’s investigation. Now conflicting versions of the story may make bringing the truth to light nearly impossible—especially when reputations, relationships, and whole futures are riding on the verdict.
My take: Told expertly in alternating close 3rd person POV Richard and Haley meet, and become close while linked to a investigation for sexual assault at fictional McCallum college. Because neither of them are the victim or the aggressor, the reader gets a wider view of the issue of sexual assault on campus. Whether the character is a hippie, math whiz, bio geek, athlete, Dean, or parent the issue is complex and inextricably linked to narrative. This is an excellent book for starting conversations about sexual assault on campus. It’s one that will keep you turning pages until the story is complete.
What books should I add to my TBR list that keep you up reading?
Join me on Thursday when I interview Ernie D’Elia, cover illustrator of the Five Stones Trilogy. The Kinfolk, the conclusion of the #5stonesbooks, launches Tuesday, October 25th and the blog tour is going on all week long.
I’ve tried all summer to pull away from the lure of the screen: lap top, desk top, and iPhone. Instead, I spent July teaching horseback riding, taking kids on creek hikes, picking berries, singing and more as a camp counselor at Eagle’s Nest Camp (a camp that I went to as a child and counseled at during my 20’s). June and August were dedicated to my client MaineShare as I helped them coordinate the MaineShare Fair an event that will take place next week (September 9th) in Portland, Maine.
I’ve spent a fair bit of time out on the Androscoggin River rowing and coaching others. Eagles, herons and leaping fish were a gift as I glided over some amazingly smooth water. I slipped my middle grade work in progress into sunny summer slivers of time thinking deeply and working on a revision that amplifies desire, conflict and tension.
Even with all this incredible activity I made time to read. I embraced audio books with the amazing FREE audio book summer reading program at SYNC. These books filled the time on the long drive from Maine to North Carolina and back. And without Facebook, I had plenty of time to sink into a book at night. At the beginning of the year, I’d challenged myself to read 26 books thinking that one every other week would be great, but I’ve already exceeded that goal. Now I’ve increased that goal to 40 (but really I’m hoping for 52).
I have a number of adult and poetry books on my list for fall but I’m super excited about Melanie Crowder’s next (her 3rd) novel A Nearer Moon that launches next week, and Meg Wiviott’s debut novel Paper Hearts that launches TODAY!
Congrats to Meg and Melanie!
Now on with my summer reading list! (Books are listed in the order I read them starting in June.)
MONSTER, Walter Dean Myers (audio book). This is an amazing full cast presentation with an extra from the author explaining his research process and his interviews with numerous incarcerated young men. Highly recommended.
BUDDHA BOY, Kathe Koja (audio book). Bullying and acceptance.
MATERIAL GIRLS, Elaine Dimopoulos (eGalley from Net Galley). More on this in a later post. Highly recommended.
CIRCUS MIRANDUS, Cassie Beasley. Gentle, loving, and magical to its core, this book is the one you want to read aloud to your students this school year. It will draw your too-big-for-read-aloud-books back to your embrace. (Evidence: my 6 foot 2 inch high school sophomore beside me nightly.) Highly recommended.
THE ADVENTURES OF BEEKLE: THE UNIMAGINARY FRIEND, Dan Santat. Caldecott winner 2015.
EL DEAFO, Cece Bell. Newbery Honor. I was especially interested in this because my major was ASL in college. I wanted to see how Bell handled the Deaf community. The book is about the main character’s struggles to fit in with her Hearing family and mainstream life even though her mother is eager to have her learn ASL. By the end of the book, her interest is piqued and I got the feeling that had the book gone on the girl may have explored the Deaf Community more. There is an excellent author’s note about the spectrum of culture and language in the Deaf Community. Highly recommended.
BROWN GIRL DREAMING, Jacqueline Woodson. What can I say about this memoir in verse that hasn’t already been said? The book won the National Book Award Winner, Coretta Scott King Award, Newbery Honor, an NAACP Image Award, and is featured on many many lists. Highly recommended.
CROWS & CARDS, Joseph Helgerson (audio book). A fun recording that harkens back to pre-Civil War days, river boat scoundrels, and Mark Twain language and humor.
THE CROSSOVER, Alexander Kwame. Newbery Winner 2015.
THE SKIN I’M IN, Sharon Flake. I picked this middle grade up at a library book sale and so glad I did. First pubbed in 1998, if you loved JUMPED by Rita Williams-Garcia you’ll be engaged by Maleeka’s struggle to love herself. Highly Recommended.
STORY OF A GIRL, Sara Zarr. A quiet YA novel that digs deeply into self acceptance, family and forgiveness.
This time of year I get a lot of requests for great gift suggestions for children’s and Young Adult books. The thing is, this year has been incredibly busy. My reading has included more nonfiction, personal, and adult titles (read: self-help) and my reviewing ground to a sad halt around Valentine’s Day of 2014. However, there is no need to despair. Below please find a round up of some of the best lists for children’s book in the #kidlitosphere and beyond! (If you have a favorite list that I don’t mention here, please note it in the comments.)
#weneeddiversebooks: Find a plethora of postings about books with diverse characters from characters of color, to those facing disabilities, to characters who are questioning or identify as part of the GLBTQ community.
The Brown Bookshelf: is always my go-to website when I’m looking for books with characters of color. Thanks to Don Tate and others for keeping this blog current and relevant!
Pragmatic Mom: Mia Wenjen is another amazing blogger with incredible multicultural lists. Don’t miss her list for children’s books that feature Asian Americans. She also has nonfiction, biography, and age specific lists.
Sporty Girl Books: Well of course I’m going to mention my group blog. This year, we are soliciting best sporty girl books of the year so add your own suggestions in the comments of yesterday’s post. We always have tabs on the blog menu for books that are age specific.
At Brain Pickings: Maria Popova has gathered a Best Children’s Books of 2014 that focuses on “Intelligent and imaginative tales of love, loneliness, loyalty, loss, friendship, and everything in between.” She has a very extensive post that shows interior illustrations and thoughtful commentary.
Buy Books for Black Friday: Ingrid Sundberg has a great post at INGRID’S NOTES that features a number of my good friends and fellow alumni from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Fabulously written books. Enough said.
The ALSC List: The Association of Library Services to Children division of the American Library Association creates a list of Notable Titles each year. Award winners are in this list as well. Don’t miss the YALSA (young adult) titles or the Graphic Novels appropriate for teens either. Just be aware that these are chosen at the 2014 Midwinter (January) conference so they focus on books pubbed in 2013.
Whadya think? Enough? I’d love to see more graphic novel lists. If you have or love a “best of children’s and YA books of 2014” let me know.