Saturday, January 28, 2017

Don't Call It Cute!

Images of my upcoming YA novel Wild Bird are starting to appear online. It seems way too early for this. The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones came out only three months ago. Most people haven’t had the chance to read that book yet. And I love Lincoln! I want his story to be heard, to touch readers, to be a source for discussion among kids and teachers and parents. 

Lincoln should have a chance to breathe. 

Plus, I am allergic to people saying or thinking that I “crank ‘em out.” That is the opposite of what I do. I'm productive, yes, but that's because I'm submerged and obsessive and live and breathe and dream whatever book I'm working on.

That, and I've got this increasingly keen (and, yes, morbid) awareness that Death can be capricious. And since there's work to do and finish, I need to get it done today because tomorrow may not come.

But Wild Bird appearing so quickly can definitely give the mistaken impression that I'm sitting at my desk, cranking these books out. It makes that comment/accusation/assumption almost understandable. The vast majority of people in the industry don't actually know me. If they did, they'd almost certainly thank their lucky stars that they didn't live with me. It's a bit much to experience Wendelin in writing mode. And I'm usually in writing mode.

The first time I heard people say I was cranking them out was when the first four Sammy Keyes books were being released. Those people didn't know about the many years of intensive writing while I was in search of a publisher, or that I'd completed all four of those Sammys before I got my "yes." They just knew that (back then) the books were coming out at six month intervals. They assumed the writing was happening in real time; that I was cranking them out.

So I admit to being sensitive about that accusation/assessment/assumption. And while I'm admitting things, let me also address the descriptor 'cute.' Do NOT call my books cute. They are not cute. None of them. Including Flipped. You want to see me flip out? Call Flipped cute.

The Running Dream published in January 2011. The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones came out in October 2016. That’s nearly six years between stand-alone books. And now, boom, Wild Bird is coming out in September 2017. But between 2011 and 2016 a lot happened, much of which contributed to my withdrawing into the research and writing of these two new books. And part of that withdrawing included wanting time to write these stories without the pressure of deadlines…which meant without contracts.

If you don’t have contracts, you’re not in your publisher's book release queue. There’s the whole editorial process to go through, plus, publishers want all their sales and marketing efforts to be in motion before pub date in order to give a book its best chance.  

One of the things a publisher does to introduce an upcoming title is print up advance reader's copies (or ARCs) of the book. This is the pre-pub paperback and “uncorrected” version of (what in my case will be) a hardcover book. They send these ARCs to reviewers, bloggers, and people in the industry who might be excited to share the news about it.

To put some perspective on timing and distribution, the Wild Bird ARCs were printed in December. This past week, I returned to my editor corrections to the “first pass galleys” – the next step in the book writing process. So the text that appears in the ARC (which is already printed) is now slightly different than the text that will appear in the finished book. It’s mostly subtle—more of a fine-tuning in this case. But I remember for Sammy Keyes and the Curse of Moustache Mary, the ending had changed in such a substantial way that I felt compelled to paste over the old ending with a printout of the new one before sending out the ARCs I had on hand.

Even with the latest revision, the work on Wild Bird is still not done. In another month or so, I’ll be getting another pass at it. And the fascinating thing is, there will be more changes. A copy editor will have found mistakes. And I know there’ll be passages that I want to improve. There are always corrections. The trick is to do everything you can to find them before the book goes to press. 

Wild Bird research folder
But for now, the news is out: I’ve written a new YA book. I tear up just thinking about Wild Bird. What a journey! It's the story of Wren, a 14 year old girl who's taken a wrong turn in life and gets forced into wilderness therapy camp in the Utah desert. It's about finding yourself after being lost, about forgiveness and honesty and (if you know my work at all you'll not be surprised to hear...) redemption. And in keeping with my commitment to librarians and parents who've come to trust the lines I do not cross, it's gritty but clean. 

And, as you can see from this picture of my research folder, I did not just crank it out!

Back cover of Wild Bird ARC
Thanks for stopping by the blog. I actually have a lot of exciting upcoming news to share, including a new look for the Sammy Keyes series. (Yes, finally!) 

I also haven’t forgotten my promise to give away a box of books here, so I'll figure that out soon!

And if you’re a YA blogger, a kid-lit reviewer, or work with at-risk youth and would like my publisher to send you an ARC of Wild Bird, please send a brief email at the Contact link here with your information.

I hope you’ll stop by again next weekend. ‘Til then (employing a takeaway from Wild Bird), here’s to remembering there are stars above us, even when we cannot see them.. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Invisible Cape

Last year for my birthday, I wore a cape with my age sewn onto it. It was my way of facing off with my new decade. I called it my SuperZero cape. 

Zeroes are hard, especially on women. Time can be tough on us in the appearance arena, and it's a mighty strong woman who can claim to not have that affect them. 

I am not that strong.

But I am willing to fight!

Last year on my birthday, I went for a run in my SuperZero cape. I flew around a restaurant in it. I laughed and pumped my arms and in general acted proud of my new zero, announcing to friends and strangers alike, "It's m'birth-day!"

It was a defiant strategy--the best one I could muster in combating the terrifying truth that Big Zeroes represent: time is ticking out.

This year I did not wear my cape. I thought about adding a "+1" to it, but decided to keep the cape boxed for the remainder of my present decade. I did go for a run (counting every step as a blessing), I did pump my arms at the top of the ridge, I did go to a restaurant...but the cape stayed at home.

Then during my birthday dinner my sister gave me a superhero birthday card with the message "Be your own superhero every single day." It made me laugh, remembering the fun we'd had last year.

It also got me thinking.

"Be your own superhero" can mean several things. There's the Take-Charge-of-Your-Own-Life interpretation. You know, take action. Don't wait for someone else to rescue you. Be fearless in the pursuit of your dreams.

It's a good interpretation!

But there's also the Be-The-Superhero-In-Your-Own-World interpretation that I like even more. After all, superheroes are supposed to help others, not themselves.

I do try to live my life in consideration of other people--I try to tune in to what they're going through and help/support/encourage them however I can. A lot of people do the same, and I'm always grateful for the friends--in person or online--who take the time to say or do something kind. It's amazing how a nice comment or compliment can buoy you through your day. When people swoop in and lift me up, it makes a big difference in my life!

Last year, I wore the SuperZero cape to help me get through that one day. It's bright and red and you sure can't miss it.  But it's the invisible cape I want to put on every day. The one that lets me move around without notice. The one that lets me do things for other people without recognition. The one that makes me feel like I really can fly.

The incredibly cool thing about the invisible cape is that it's not the property of Marvel or DC or Warner Brothers or anyone else. Everyone owns one.

And every one has power.

We just have to remember it's there and use it.

Whatever your interpretation, here's to being your own superhero. Every single day.