Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hate Mail!

Usually the letters and messages I receive from people are positive.

But not always!

Sometimes I receive (drum roll, please….) hate mail!

I answer my mail. (Although I am SO behind right now because of my deadline and it’s making me a little anxious.) I especially love the letters that aren’t assigned by teachers because I know the motivation to write to me is pure. (Even if they want me to send an autographed picture.) (Or an autographed book.) (Or to get a role in the upcoming Sammy Keyes movie [which is NOT in the works at this time, and which I could NOT do anyway, even if it were]. It’s all okay because I know that they’re legitimately enthused.)

(BTW, and just for the record, I am also NOT a bookstore, so don’t get any funny ideas.)

(Do we have enough parentheticals here?)


Anyway, I also appreciate the “assignment” letters—the ones where a language arts teacher has the students write their favorite author and tell them what they liked (and maybe didn’t like) about a particular book. (There must be a nationwide language arts teacher template for these letters because the structure is very often the same. It starts with something about the student—their hobbies and their pets and their families and what sports or clubs or TV shows they like—then moves on to what they liked about your story, and then asks you—even though they’re sure you’re very busy—to answer their list of questions [which can range from one to a hundred depending (usually) on whether a boy or a girl is writing.])

(Parentheticals rock!)

Double anyway, I LOVE the teachers who have their students include a self addressed stamped envelope for the reply because when you get hundreds of these like I do it makes it SO much easier (not to mention cost-reducing) if there’s a SASE. (Publishing reality: If I get 40 cents for every paperback book that sells, and it costs me 44 cents [and rising] in postage alone to reply to an assignment…well, you can understand many authors’ reluctance to write back.)

But I do write back (even if deadlines waylay me sometimes) because I remind myself that if I was the kid writing and I never heard back from my favorite-author-in-the-whole-wide-world, well, I’d be disappointed.

(Even if it was an assignment my teacher made me do.)

Sometimes a kid who’s been given an assignment will write that they weren’t wild about my book. Fine. Fair enough. So I figure that they don’t really mean it when they say to please write back. I mean, they didn’t really like my writing, so why ask for more, right? They’re just trying to finish working the formula their teacher gave them for writing an author.

One of the two “hate mails” I received this week sort of falls in this “dreaded assignment” category. The poor kid just didn’t get Flipped, hated the two points of view, hated the “boringness” of it, hated the chick on the cover. This student didn’t pull punches either. BAM-BAM-BAM! They let me have it. And then I got a litany of things I could do to make the book better. BAM-BAM-BAM!

Like I’m going to start over and publish it again?

But then, in closing, this student asked me to please-please-please write back.

Cracked me up.

The other message was more along the lines of true hate—something I don’t get much of to tell you the truth. But this woman did not like the way Swear to Howdy began (I swear to howdy it’s hilarious, but obviously this woman does not have my sense of humor. And obviously she’s not a teenage boy.)

Even though this book has generated some amazing fan mail, she said that after reading the first few pages she wanted to return the book but instead did the world a service by shredding it.

(I think we can all feel a little safer tonight.)

Now, there was a time I would have written these haters back. There was a time I would have presented a defense. I don’t like to be misunderstood, or have my work misunderstood.

And nobody likes to feel hated.

But you know what? I finally get that there are people in this world who will never like you, no matter what you do or how much you try.

(And you double-know-what? There are some people who if they did like me I’d be worried. Like, what kind of a jerk am I that that jerk likes me?)

The same thing applies to your art—there’s just no pleasing everybody.

What it boils down to is acceptance.

I accept that not everyone’s going to like me.

I accept that not everyone’s going to like my work.

The best defense is to just let it go.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Stop The Clock!

There's a four book contract on my desk and it's making me sad.

Mark laughed at me when I told him. 

He's been waiting a while for a one-book contract to come through.

So yeah, it's pretty silly that a four-book contract would make anyone sad, but it's for the final four Sammys and The End is coming at me like a freight train. Choo-choo. (Boo-hoo!)

Maybe I won't sign them! I'm going to miss my first deadline anyway, so why sign something you can't fulfill.

But my agent extended my grace period in the contract(s) so dang. I don't have that excuse.

The contracts arrived on my oldest son's twentieth birthday.

I cannot believe he's twenty!


He can't believe it, either, and decided Disneyland was the place to go to avoid facing the end of his "childhood." So that's where we went this weekend!

So where do I go to avoid facing the end of Sammy? Disneyland doesn't seem right. And she's not "18" yet (the number of books). She's not even 15! She's only 14.5! She's still a kid. I have a lot of time left!

That's what I said about my son.

Maybe if I wrote sloooooower I could avoid this ending for a while.

But time just keeps marching, man, and my son's already twenty.

And these contracts are sitting here on my desk ticking.

But then there's Mark, in the next room, laughing, keeping it all in perspective.

Silly girl.

He's twenty. He's happy. He's healthy.

Silly girl.

It's a four-book contract and you're sad?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Wedding Crasher Art Process

Hi there and thanks for checking in! Before I get going on this week's post I want to thank everyone who left such nice comments last week. This community is so positive and supportive and I know I've said it before but, once again, I appreciate you!

(I also know there are questions in last week's comments and I will get back to those asap.)

Meanwhile, I think you'll find this week's entry fascinating because it's the inside scoop on the cover art process. I've mentioned in several entries how the writing process is in some ways more a re-writing process, and I think it's worth noting that this is often the case with the artwork as well. (And, extending the concept, with anything creative.)

To the left is the cover for the paperback edition of Sammy Keyes and the Wedding Crasher (which I believe comes out in May). I received the proof in the mail last week and busted up, even though I'd seen previous sketches and had a pretty good idea of what it would look like. Still, seeing it as a finished cover was really fun.

So how am I planning to explain all the steps involved in getting to this cover when I'm not the artist?

I'm not.

I'm going to let Karl Edwards, the illustrator for the Sammy paperbacks explain via his blog post. For those of you interested in art or illustration, this is an invaluable look at the process. For those of you who are just Sammy Keyes fans and want to see what the poor artist had to go through to make us all happy, you'll see the previous renditions (and Sammy on a motorcycle!). For those of you who have already read Wedding Crasher in hardcover, you'll see that all the sketches took liberties with the storyline, and that is because capturing the essence of this story with a single image (note that all the covers have just that), was a tough job.

So until next week, I'm delighted to introduce you to Karl Edwards, his blog, and his  fascinating overview of the cover art process. Enjoy!

PS If you like Karl's entry be sure to leave him a comment--it's always nice to get positive feedback and you guys are great at that!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

It's Always A Big Deal

We just returned from an author friend's book release party. (Sherry Shahan for Purple Daze--a free-verse YA novel with "mature" content.) It was a 60's themed bash in keeping with the new book's Vietnam era setting, and it was nice to see so many of her friends celebrate her newest achievement, even though she has many books already in print.

Books are like babies. Everyone makes a fuss over the first one and showers you with congratulations and gifts (well, the actual buying of your book anyway), but after you've had a few, people (understandably) start losing track. The fussing fades away because it's no longer a novelty, it's just what you do.

So if you're the tenth child in a family, there will probably be few pictures of you, and lots of hand-me-down everythings.

But it takes just as much energy to build that tenth child as it did to build the first. Actually more, because you now have those other nine to tend to and keep on track.

So it's still a big deal to you, and still as big an accomplishment. And even if it has grown into "what you do,"  each book that follows that first one is just as special. (And something people who are praying for their first book would kill for!) The difference is, you can't expect the rest of the world to do cartwheels for you. It becomes your job to throw the celebration, and why not? You deserve to celebrate, and it's a lot more fun with others around you.

I never met an author before becoming one, and Sherry was one of the first published authors I got to know. So it was really great to see her decked out in hippie gear and taking time to celebrate what I know was several years of hard work. 

It was also good to talk to other people at the party--a nice reset on appreciating the good fortune of having even one book published. There was a woman there who told me how my talk at a local writer's organization ten years before had stuck with her.

I'm like, Hello? What in the world did I say?

Turns out, words of encouragement. About sticking to it. She said that my ten years of rejection served as encouragement to her. She's now very close to getting her first book picked up by a major publisher and she said that once she does she'll pass the same encouragement on to others.

Final thought: Sometimes when things fall into your lap--or they just happened for you easily--you don't truly appreciate that there's cause for celebration. But it's not lost on the person who's been trying for years and years. So if you're one of them, hang in there and visualize your first book bash. Then your second. And your third.

And invite me, would you?

It's a big deal.

It's always a big deal.