Diversity

When Your Publisher Closes Their Door

When Your Publisher Closes Their Door you stand there and stare at it.

After the shock wears off, you reach for the handle. Only there’s one problem; it’s locked. Worse? You don’t have the key.

If you’re like me, you might collapse against that door in defeat. You may even cry for a bit.

But then…

But then you realize there’s got to be another way. You look around. There’s three other walls, each with a window. There’s also a ceiling and the floor you’re standing on, of course. You’re not Spiderman so scaling walls isn’t your thing. You’re not Rumpelstiltskin, so stomping your way through the floor isn’t an option (although, after that tantrum you threw, you’re pretty sure you’d be strong enough to do it if you didn’t fracture your bones first). You’re not without tools – you’re equipped with a pencil, a pad of paper and your trusted companion.

No, not your dog.

Your laptop.

Sunlight pours in through the windows and you begin to realize things aren’t as gloomy as you once thought.

You glance out each window.

One has a literary agent.

The other an editor.

The third window has a glare. You don’t know what’s behind it but you’re convinced it’s a monster.

You stand up, brush yourself off and go to the window with the agent. She smiles. You write something on your pad of paper and press it against the window. The agent holds up a note asking you to open the window. You can’t believe it! An open window! You have a nice conversation with this agent and you realize how much you like her. She’d be a great champion for your work. Unfortunately, she decides she’s not the best person to represent this project.

You’re crushed.

But, once she steps away, you see there are other agents. They also tell you to leave the window open. For your next project.

So you glance at the editor and head in her direction. Before you even reach her window, she puts up a note. Even from this distance you see what it says. It’s an offer. She wants to publish your book. You stop in your tracks. An offer!

The editor asks you to open the window. And so you do. She hands you the contract and you start to review it.  You glance back at the closed door behind you and your heart sinks. You’ve been down this path before. Your editor was great. REALLY great. But the expertise of a literary agent to help you with your contracts (amongst other things) would have been worth her weight in gold. You tell the editor how grateful you are and return to the agent. Unfortunately, she sticks with her decision. So you kindly reject the editor’s generous offer (but not without a huge knot in your stomach and sweaty palms because you question if you’re making a mistake). She tells you to keep the window open and so you do.

But for this book, you’re out of options. Sure, you could shelve it and bring it back out later but you have readers and they’re waiting for this final story in the series. And so you sit in the center of the room, too depressed to write. Heck, you’re too depressed to even talk to your friends.

You turn off social media.

You close the blinds.

You can’t deal with it anymore.

You’re shutting down.

In fact, you’re not even sure if you want to write anymore. The rejection is too hard. The obstacles too cumbersome.

And even as you write this, the pain is still real and raw and you start crying all over again.

But then something stirs in you. Maybe it’s hunger. It’s been a while since you’ve eaten anything. But you feel something else. Something that feels like determination. Either way, you get up. Your legs are wobbly but you gain your footing quickly. You decide you want to go to that window with the glare.

It could be something fantastic on the other side.

Or it could be a monster.

You could find success waiting for you.

Or you could get gobbled up.

Either way, you win.

You’ve still got your pen and paper. If it’s a monster, you can simply write your way out of the belly of the beast.

When you finally reach the window you see a familiar face. It’s one of your friends! She knocks on the glass and waves. You open the window. She urges you to join her. You’re intimidated and overwhelmed but you take her hand and climb out. She promises to show you the ropes – it’s a steep learning curve, but you can do it. And so you embrace your new journey of self-publishing. You do it right though. You hire editors, cover designers, formatters, and submit your book for review.

But the story doesn’t end there.

Because you write more books. And those windows are still open. The editors and agents are waiting. And you definitely want to work with them again.

The point is, even though things got rough, you didn’t give up. You explored your options. And you made the choice that was right for you. And only YOU get to decide how to measure your success.

And just so you know you’re not alone, you do some research and realize there are other children’s authors who succeeded in the face of failure:

Kate DiCamillo faced 473 rejections before finally obtaining a publishing contract.

The story of JK Rowling’s rejections is well known but even she continued to face rejection after the success of Harry Potter.

Madeleine L’engle, Rudyard Kipling, Anne Frank, and Beatrix Potter all faced rejection.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making was a self-published serial before being acquired by Feiwel and Friends. It went on to win prestigious awards.

The Secret Zoo is another self-published middle-grade novel that was later acquired by a publisher. School Library Journal called it a “…fast paced mix of mystery and fantasy…”

 

Author Daniel Kenney is making a living wage with his self published endeavors in middle-grade books.

For the older crowd in children’s literature there’s even more success stories.

Authors of The Fat Boy Chronicles self-published their book. They met success in schools and quickly went on to sign with a traditional publisher.

Christopher Paolini self published Eragon before it was picked up by Knopf books.

Tiger’s Curse was self-published by Colleen Houck, who is now a NYTimes bestselling author.

Amanda Hocking is another successful self published author who sold over nine million copies of her books before signing with St. Martin’s Press.

And this recent article in PW featuring author Intasar Khanani’s book deal reveals the power of great writing, including that of self-published authors.

For the picture book crowd, there’s been success as well.

There’s Pete the Cat 

The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep

And let’s not forget about How to Talk to Girls .

So when that door closes in your face, remember success comes in many forms and only you can decide which window you want to climb through.

 

Amie Borst is the author of the Scarily Ever Laughter series; Cinderskella, Little Dead Riding Hood, and Snow Fright. She’s a champion of all authors, traditional, indie and everything in between. Because as they sing in High School Musical, We’re All in This Together.  You can find her on her website www.amieborst.com

Writing While White

I am a white author. When I write about social justice online, I use phrases like “fellow white people” or “we white women.” I do this intentionally. And yes, like @helloalegria says in the tweet above, it was weird and uncomfortable at first. But you know what? The more I used language that was precise, the easier it got. Plus I began to have much more productive conversations online about dismantling racism and white supremacy.

What does this have to do with middle grade books?

As a white author who has grown up with white privilege and who has benefited from the racism inherent in most (all?) American institutions, I am accustomed to being the “norm” or the “default.” If I read a book, where a character is described as having brown, curly hair (like for example Hermione Granger), I will mostly likely assume that the character is also white.

Because I am “used to being the default definition of ‘people’” as @helloalegria says, I also need to be aware of how I might perpetuate the white default definition of ‘people’ in my books.

This happens if I make a point of describing the skin tone or ethnicity of characters of color but don’t describe the skin tone or family background of light-skinned characters. Doing this makes anyone who is not white into “the other.” And that, fellow white authors, no matter your intentions, is white supremacy at work.

Martha Brockenbrough is a white author who was very intentional in her approach to writing about race in the novel The Game of Love and Death. I asked her to share with us what she was thinking during the process. Here’s what she said:

In college I learned about “marked” language. This was language that assumed male as the standard, and it’s why we say things like “female lawyer” and “male nurse.” (Nurses are stereotypically female, so “male nurse” even works as a punchline.)

With The Game of Love and Death, I didn’t want to center whiteness, and particularly not in the chapters told from the viewpoint of Flora, who is a Black pilot. Where race is observed, blackness is the default. So race is only seen when it is not Black. 

This is part of the empathy we need to cultivate when we are writers. To authentically inhabit characters and understand how their lives feel given our power structures, which favor white people, men, and white men in particular. 

Language is powerful. We build the world with it in so many ways, and as writers, we have the opportunity to build worlds that change the way readers think. And this is what art is supposed to do. It’s supposed to make us feel, and as we process those feelings, we develop a point of view on what it means to be alive.

I love what Martha is saying here. We owe it to our readers—all of our readers—to consider the world from their point-of-view, and to do that, we white writers must be willing to consider that our own point-of-view should not be the “norm” or “default” way to the see the world.

*The title of this post — “Writing While White” — is a shout-out to a blog that I highly recommend called “Reading While White.” Definitely check it out!

** After writing this post, I found another excellent post of the same title by Marianne Modica. Click here to read it.

“Fall” into Nonfiction with some great new Titles

Looking for some AWESOME Middle Grade and YA nonfiction to add to your shelves this fall?  Check out some of the Amazing titles listed below– from a playful book about cats, to a history thriller about the famous Booth Brothers, two books about women and girls who changed the world, an incredible story of bionic animals, a creepy book about the way poison was used throughout history,  a series on discovering animal secrets, and the first in a series of facts that are too crazy to be true, yet they are… These books showcase Nonfiction as the very exciting, highly intriguing topic it is. #NonfictionROCKS

 

True Stories of Kindness and Companionship with Kitties

By Aline Alexander Newman (Nat Geo Kids)


We humans love our cats and these surprising true stories will prove our cats love us back This collection of tales of playfulness, friendship, heroism, and inspiration is sure to touch the soul, tickle the funny bone, and inspire animal lovers everywhere to be the best kitty caretakers and companions they can be. There’s Bambi, whose owners taught her to respond to commands in American Sign Language; Millie, who loves exploring the outdoors and goes rock climbing with her owner; Leo, a rescued lion who changed the life of one South African family forever, and more.

 

The Booth Brothers: Drama, Fame and the Death of President Lincoln by Rebecca Langston-George (Capstone Press)


Today everyone knows the name of John Wilkes Booth, the notorious zealot who assassinated Abraham Lincoln. But in his lifetime, the killer was an actor who was well-known among fans of the theater, well-known but less famous and less admired than his brother Edwin. In the 1860s, Edwin Booth ranked among the greatest and most-respected stars of the stage. He lived in New York and sympathized with the Union cause, while his younger brother stomped the streets of Washington, D.C., and raged as the Civil War turned in favor of the North. John fantasized about kidnapping the president, but after the defeat of the Confederacy, he sought deadly vengeance. The night Lincoln attended a performance at Ford’s Theatre, Edwin was far away, knowing nothing of the plot unfolding in the nation’s capital.

 

 

Bold Women of Medicine
21 Stories of Astounding Discoveries, Daring Surgeries, and Healing Breakthroughs By Susan M. Latta (Chicago Review Press)

Meet 21 determined women who have dedicated their lives to healing others. In the 19th century, Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton–the “Lady with the Lamp” and the “Angel of the Battlefield”–earned their nicknames by daring to enter battlefields to aid wounded soldiers, forever changing the standards of medicine. Modern-day medical heroines such as Bonnie Simpson Mason, who harnessed the challenges of her chronic illness and founded an organization to introduce women and minorities to orthopedic surgery, and Kathy Magliato, who jumped the hurdles to become a talented surgeon in the male-dominated arena of heart transplants, will inspire any young reader interested in the art, science, and lifechanging applications of medicine. Lovers of adventure will follow Mary Carson Breckinridge, the “nurse on horseback” who delivered babies in the Appalachian Mountains and believed that everyone, including our poorest and most vulnerable citizens, deserve good health care, and Jerri Nielsen, the doctor stationed in Antarctica who, cut off from help, had to bravely treat her own breast cancer. These and 15 other daring women inspire with their courage, persistence, and belief in the power of both science and compassion.
Packed with photos and informative sidebars and including source notes and a bibliography, Bold Women of Medicine is an invaluable addition to any student’s or aspiring doctor or nurse’s bookshelf.

Lotta Crabtree: Gold Rush Fairy Star By Lois Harris (Pelican Publishing Company)

With the California Gold Rush reaching a feverish peak, it was up to child performers called “Fairy Stars” to keep the miners entertained. As adventurers from all over the world spent hours scouring the land for gold, the children would dance, sing, and act to raise spirits and money–and the most successful among them was Lotta Crabtree. At just eight years old, Lotta won hearts on the West and East Coasts with her extraordinary talent for performing. Thus began a career that lasted decades, launching Lotta to stardom and making her one of the most beloved actresses of the nineteenth century. In this unique biography for young readers, follow Lotta’s first years, her struggle to support her family, and her spectacular journey to fame by age twenty.

 

Unstoppable:True Stories of Amazing Bionic Animals By Nancy Furstinger (Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt)


Chris P. Bacon was born with malformed legs, but with the help of a wheelchair made of construction toys, he’s become a hero to people with similar challenges. Nancy Furstinger profiles Chris P. Bacon and many other animals in Unstoppable–all of whom are making their way around with the help of prosthetics, braces, orthotics and wheelchairs Readers will meet the caretakers, prosthetists, vets, and loving families that help to make recovery possible. Furstinger offers a glimpse into the cutting-edge technologies, such as 3D printing and brain-controlled prosthetics, that are helping to improve the lives of animals and humans alike.

 

Poison:Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines By Sarah Albee (Crown BFYR)

Science geeks and armchair detectives will soak up this non-lethal, humorous account of the role poisons have played in human history. Perfect for STEM enthusiasts
For centuries, people have been poisoning one another–changing personal lives and the course of empires alike.
From spurned spouses and rivals, to condemned prisoners like Socrates, to endangered emperors like Alexander the Great, to modern-day leaders like Joseph Stalin and Yasser Arafat, poison has played a starring role in the demise of countless individuals. And those are just the deliberate poisonings. Medical mishaps, greedy “snake oil” salesmen and food contaminants, poisonous Prohibition, and industrial toxins also impacted millions.
Part history, part chemistry, part whodunit, Poison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines traces the role poisons have played in history from antiquity to the present and shines a ghoulish light on the deadly intersection of human nature . . . and Mother Nature.

 

The Secret of the Scuba Diving Spider… and More!
By Ana Maria Rodriguez (Enslow Publishing)


Readers will dive along with an underwater spider and also discover why caterpillars need an emergency whistle, how moths talk back to bats, that zombie beetles really exist, and what makes cockroaches so hard to catch. Primary sources include interviews with the scientists and original photos. Simple yet detailed language makes complicated scientific ideas easy to understand. A hands-on activity allows students to take on the role of scientist and examine these basic biological principles themselves.

 

Fault Lines in the Constitution:The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws That Affect Us Today By Cynthia Levinson; Sanford Levinson (Peachtree Publishers)

Many of the political issues we struggle with today have their roots in the US Constitution.

Husband-and-wife team Cynthia and Sanford Levinson take readers back to the creation of this historic document and discuss how contemporary problems were first introduced–then they offer possible solutions. Think Electoral College, gerrymandering, even the Senate. Many of us take these features in our system for granted. But they came about through haggling in an overheated room in 1787, and we’re still experiencing the ramifications.  From the award-winning team, Cynthia Levinson, children’s book author, and Sanford Levinson, constitutional law scholar, Fault Lines in the Constitution will encourage exploration and discussion from young and old readers alike.

 

Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive!  By Ammi-Joan Paquette; Laurie Ann Thompson (Walden Pond Press)

Two Truths and a Lie is the first book in a fascinating new series that presents some of the most crazy-but-true stories about the living world as well as a handful of stories that are too crazy to be true–and asks readers to separate facts from the fakes

Every story in this book is strange and astounding. But not all of them are real. Just like the old game in this book’s title, two out of every three stories are completely true and one is an outright lie. Can you guess which? It’s not going to be easy. Some false stories are based on truth, and some of the true stories are just plain unbelievable. And they’re all accompanied by dozens of photos, maps, and illustrations. Amaze yourself and trick your friends as you sort out the fakes from the facts

 

Geoengineering Earth’s Climate: Resetting the Thermostat By Jennifer Swanson (21st Century Books/Lerner)

“Most scientists agree that Earth is warming rapidly. Glaciers are melting and rising seawaters are submerging islands and coastal cities. In the coming decades, millions will likely have to escape extreme weather caused by climate change. Some scientists say we need to act faster and with radical new technologies—now—to save our planet. They propose geoengineering, or “”engineering Earth,”” to reset our global thermostat. Ideas include thickening clouds with chemicals to reduce the amount of sunlight and pulling carbon dioxide from the air with machines. However, critics say that geoengineering could backfire and create even worse weather. Is geoengineering too risky? Or is it our best hope of survival?”