Giveaways

Exploring THE PLACES WE SLEEP with Author Caroline DuBois

I have a new guest for you, today! She’s written a tender, moving tale in verse that journeys a young girl through everyday details while living during a time of national crisis. The first words of this story made me pause and take notice. And the rest, poked me right in the heart to the end. The writing is beautiful and real, the story is important, and the growth of the main character is hopeful. I’m very excited to share The Places We Sleep with you and welcome Author Caroline DuBois to share her thoughts about the book.

Hi Caroline! It’s wonderful to have you visit our Mixed-Up Files family. Let’s share your beautiful cover and story with readers first.

THE PLACES WE SLEEP

by Caroline DuBois

A family divided, a country going to war, and a girl desperate to feel at home converge in this stunning novel in verse.

It’s early September 2001, and twelve-year-old Abbey is the new kid at school. Again.

I worry about people speaking to me / and worry just the same / when they don’t.

Tennessee is her family’s latest stop in a series of moves due to her dad’s work in the Army, but this one might be different. Her school is far from Base, and for the first time, Abbey has found a real friend: loyal, courageous, athletic Camille.

And then it’s September 11. The country is under attack, and Abbey’s “home” looks like it might fall apart. America has changed overnight.

How are we supposed / to keep this up / with the world / crumbling / around us?

Abbey’s body changes, too, while her classmates argue and her family falters. Like everyone around her, she tries to make sense of her own experience as a part of the country’s collective pain. With her mother grieving and her father prepping for active duty, Abbey must learn to cope on her own.

Written in gorgeous narrative verse, Abbey’s coming-of-age story accessibly portrays the military family experience during a tumultuous period in our history. At once personal and universal, it’s a perfect read for fans of sensitive, tender-hearted books like The Thing About Jellyfish.

If you would, share with our readers one book from your childhood that has stayed with you, and how can children’s authors in today’s unsettled world achieve this same unforgettable feel?

Mary Norton’s The Borrowers sparked my imagination as a child. My librarian mom introduced it to me. Norton’s world-building of tiny people living in the walls and borrowing from the people with whom they lived was pure escape for me from the big complicated world.

Children’s authors in today’s uncertain world can achieve this same unforgettable feel by either delivering children to a rich land of imagination, or by providing children a story in which they can see themselves. Then they can envision and dream of ways they can be and all the things they can achieve.

What made you decide to write “The Places We Sleep” in verse?

Abbey’s story came to me naturally in poetry, perhaps as a lyrical way to process 9/11 and my brothers’ deployment, but also likely because I’d recently completed my MFA in poetry. It began as more of a character sketch through poems and eventually turned into a story. I wanted to write about how world events have rippling effects on individuals and familial relationships in unexpected ways. The snapshots or scenes that poems allow you to write provided me with the perfect medium.

Your description of poems being scenes is fascinating and also beautiful. It definitely worked. How much of the novel is inspired by your own experience growing up in the South in a military family?

Although I did not grow up in a military family, both of my grandfathers served in the military, as well as both of my brothers, my brother-in-law, and my sister-in-law. Abbey’s story is about being a military child, but it’s also about many other things—identity, loss and grief, creating art in the face of tragedy, tolerance and acceptance, and friendship. It’s about how world events can touch individuals in large and small ways.

That they do. ♥ This couldn’t have been an easy story to write. What was the most difficult part?

I faced two specific challenges in writing this story. One was creating full, round characters through poems. And the other was making decisions about how to approach a national tragedy age-appropriately and sensitively. Having a great editor at Holiday House and a sensitivity reader helped with both.

Why do you think this story is important for the middle-grade audience?

Middle grade students I’ve taught often have had only a fuzzy understanding of the events of 9/11, and the nonfiction texts they’ve typically enjoyed the most in my classroom were almost always couched in a narrative story. I hope Abbey’s story will spark curiosity in young readers about 9/11 and the monumental lessons we learned and are still learning from that tragedy. I hope the book will leave readers with a memorable story about a girl who may not be all that different from themselves. Furthermore, I hope student readers are gently nudged to learn the names of others with whom they share classes and hallways and to act with kindness and dignity to those they may not know or understand. Maybe it will even inspire some young reader to choose to deal with life’s challenges through art or poetry or other forms of creativity.

Inspiring young readers to engage in conversation about the events of 9/11 is a wonderful.

How much research did you do for the story?

I lived through 9/11 and began writing and reading about it immediately thereafter. Additionally, I’ve had various family members in the military as well as taught students who experienced and still experience islamophobia. I conducted research as I was writing the story, as well as mined the living resources around me to create as authentic a portrayal of the historical backdrop to the story as I could.

What can young readers expect from your main character Abbey?

I hope that young readers can see themselves in Abbey as she navigates challenging world events along with the struggles of middle school and adolescence. Currently, teens and children are facing their own difficult world events. I hope readers see how Abbey perseveres and strives to be a good friend, to be kind, and to express empathy and tolerance to others.

All extremely important traits, especially in today’s world. Do you have any advice for librarians and teachers on how to encourage middle schoolers to give in verse books a try?

Books in verse make great shared read-aloud opportunities. You’re never too old to be read to or to enjoy reading aloud to someone else. Another way to inspire and hook a child on the joy of reading is by giving a book talk. Where an educator may not have time to read an entire chapter, there’s always time for a poem or two. And once one student starts reading it, the likelihood is that his or her friends will pick it up too. Books in verse create more white space between scenes as well as playful or dramatic visual messages with syntax, punctuation, and form, which can motivate adolescent readers.

Circling back to my first question, what do you hope stays with your readers after they read this story?

Perhaps The Places We Sleep will spark curiosity in young readers about 9/11 and the monumental lessons we learned and are still learning from that tragedy. I hope student readers are gently nudged to learn the names of others with whom they share classes and hallways and to act with kindness and dignity to those they may not know or understand. Maybe it will inspire some young reader to choose to deal with life’s challenges through art or poetry or other forms of creativity.

Here’s a little bit more about Caroline:

Caroline Brooks DuBois found her poetic voice in the halls of the English Department at Converse College and the University of Bucknell’s Seminar for Young Poets. She received a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, under the scholarship of Pulitzer Prize winning poet James Tate, among other greats in the poetry world.
DuBois’s writing infuses poetry and prose and has been published by outlets as varied as Highlights High Five, Southern Poetry Review, and The Journal of the American Medical Association and has been twice honored by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Her debut middle-grade novel-in-verse, The Places We Sleep, is published by Holiday House and to be released August 2020.
DuBois has taught poetry workshops, writing classes, and English at the middle school, high school, and college levels. In May 2016, she was recognized as a Nashville Blue Ribbon Teacher for her dedication to her students and excellence in teaching adolescents.
DuBois currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she works as an English instructional coach and sometimes co-writes songs for fun with her singer-songwriter husband. She has two teenage children and a dog, Lilli, and she enjoys coaching soccer and generally being outside.
WEBSITE | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM

Thank you for sharing some of your writing journey with us, Caroline! All the best with The Places We Sleep.

Legal Aspects of Writing and Publishing: Interview with Author-Agent Jacqui Lipton, and Giveaway

Hello Mixed-Up Filers! I was fortunate to know Jacqui Lipton at VCFA where we both got our MFA degrees in Writing. After graduating from Vermont College Of Fine Arts, Jacqui has become an agent and an author. I’m so pleased to welcome her for an interview at Mixed-Up Files today.

 

                                   

Hi Jacqui, thanks for joining us today at Mixed-Up Files.

Thank you for having me and congratulations on your recent book deal!

Thank you, Jacqui! Tell us about your book. What motivated you to write Law & Authors?

The more I began to immerse myself in the writing community, the more I realized the need for easily accessible resources for writers who couldn’t necessarily afford to hire lawyers for every little problem, and who could use some guidance on when and how to find legal advice. One thing I’ve tried to do in the book is to make the legal issues fun and accessible by using examples from popular culture to illustrate how things like copyrights, trademarks, contracts, privacy and defamation law work. I’ve also included hints and tips about what issues writers can handle reasonably easily on their own (e.g. registering a copyright) and when legal help may be necessary.

  1. How did you become an agent and an author?

Becoming an author is easy. You just sit at a typewriter and bleed, right?

But agenting is a tougher nut to crack, and I wasn’t always sure that’s what I wanted to do anyway. While I was in the MFA program, the opportunity arose to become a reader for an established kidlit agent. I loved the editorial and manuscript development work and, with my legal background, I was fascinated by the legal and business side of the industry. After a few years of moving in that direction, and doing some informational interviews with other agents, I figured it was time to fish or cut bait.

  1. What are the top three contract provisions an author must understand before signing with an agent?

Agency contracts are actually pretty easy to follow and are usually no more than two or three pages long. It’s the with publishers that are more complex: see below. For an agency contract, it’s important to understand:

  • the scope of representation (what work the contract actually covers e.g. everything you write during the term of the agreement; only your writing in a particular genre or in a particular market etc.?);
  • when and how the agreement can be terminated (how much notice do you have to give? Are you locked in for a particular period after signing?); and,
  • if you move on to another agent, what happens to projects you’ve worked on while at the previous agency (when can you submit them to editors through the new agency? Will the original agency take a cut of the commission?)

Of course, you want to know what commission the agent gets. It’s standard for most agents to ask for 15% of your royalties for a regular sale and higher percentages if they engage other agents for subrights etc. because that sub-agent will also take a cut.

 

  1. What are the top five dos and don’ts when it comes to contract negotiations with publishers?

It probably depends on whether you’re negotiating yourself or via an agent. If you have an agent, your agent will probably guide the strategy to an extent, and will handle the negotiation on your behalf, but of course in close consultation with you. After all, the agent represents you, not the other way around.

Each contract varies with context so there are no hard and fast rules, but you should think about things like:

  • What rights the publisher is taking. If the publisher wants subrights like foreign, translation, merchandising, film/TV etc, think about whether the publisher is likely to be able to execute those rights satisfactorily. If not, try to retain them, or at least seek a reversion (ie you get back the rights) after a particular period of time.
  • How much is the advance you’re being offered? This is not something you should really look at out of context; you need to consider royalties, sub-rights etc at the same time. A lower advance will be easier to “earn out” (ie pay back out of royalties) so a lower advance isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
  • If you’re writing a book that has significant design or illustration elements (e.g. a picture book), will you get consultation or approval over those design elements, including over the choice of illustrator etc. The same comes up with choice of narrators under audio rights contracts. Many publishers will give you consultation, rather than approval, but most good publishers are collaborative on this score for the most part in any event.
  • Understand that you are likely making certain representations to the publisher that your book doesn’t infringe anyone else’s legal rights, including copyrights and trademark rights, and that your book doesn’t defame anyone. The publisher will likely seek an indemnity from you if they are sued for these things. Try to find out if you can limit the indemnity to non-frivolous legal action (frivolous claims are those that are raised more for the annoyance value than because there is a serious legal issue at stake). See if the publisher is able to extend any of its liability insurance to cover you: this is unlikely but you can ask.
  • Understand what happens if you don’t submit your final manuscript on time or you don’t submit a satisfactory manuscript. Do you have a right to have extra time (if you can’t make your initial deadline), and/or to revise to the publisher’s specifications? If you get more time, how much time? What happens to your advance if you fail to deliver a satisfactory manuscript?

Publishing contracts are much more complex than agency contracts which is why it’s a good idea to work with an agent, if you possibly can. If you don’t have an agent, it may be worth engaging the services of a lawyer with expertise in publishing contracts to help you negotiate these contracts.

  1. Could you recommend resources for authors or illustrators who would like to protect their rights in the current publishing environment?

For those who are members of the Authors Guild, there are useful legal resources on their website and they do offer contract consultations.

Volunteer lawyers for the arts organizations around the country provide pro bono legal advice to authors and artists but often have significant waiting lists.

Some writers’ organizations, like SCBWI and SFWA have helpful information about publishing dos and don’ts and current issues of concern on their website, including an “ask a lawyer” bulletin board accessible from the SCBWI website.

The Authors Alliance has useful information on their website particularly about contract negotiations, fair use and rights reversions.

I go into more detail on how to find effective and affordable legal advice in the final chapter of Law and Authors.

  1. Tell us about your experience founding Raven Quill Literary Agency, and your growing team of agents and authors.

It seems to have grown really fast but it’s been a lot of fun. I started the agency earlier this year with the aim of creating a fun and transparent, but of course professional, team of authors and agents working to bring new stories and voices into mainly the kidlit area. A significant aspect of our mission is to help make underrepresented voices heard. We also like to work closely and editorially with all of our authors. The agency largely grew by accident. It started with just me and rapidly expanded to include our other agents who are all amazing (Kelly Dyksterhouse, Kortney Price, and Lori Steel) largely through a series of happy accidents; people being in the right place at the right time.

  1. What advice do you have for authors who want to query an agent at Raven Quill Literary Agency?

Probably similar advice to querying any other agent/agency. Do your homework. Find the agent who seems like the right fit for your work. Write a professional query letter and make sure your manuscript really shines before you submit it. I always say: “I don’t want your fastest work; I want your best work.” There’s a lot of information on our website about what we’re all looking for and how to submit to each of us, and when we’re open or closed to general queries. (We all use Query Manager for submissions and try to ensure that at least one or two of us are open to queries at any given time.) We also regularly Tweet out particular wishlists. We do share submissions between us if we think something is a better fit for another agent. We do consider subsequent projects from someone who has queried us before, or even revisions of projects we passed on, but we like to see authors sit back and reflect on any feedback we may have given them for, say 6-8 weeks before submitting something new. Oftentimes what isn’t clicking for an agent in the first piece is the same in later pieces by the same author. It doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with your writing, just that the agent you submitted to isn’t the right fit. We typically respond to all queries whether it’s a pass, a revise and resubmit request or an offer of rep. We try and give feedback in our responses as often as we can but sometimes it’s just not possible with the amount of queries we receive so please excuse any generic “pass” responses. Again, it’s not an indictment of your writing, just a sign of how busy we are.

Note: My usual disclaimers apply to everything in this interview. Nothing about the law is intended as formal legal advice and those who feel they do need formal advice should consult a lawyer with the appropriate expertise.

Thank you so much for having me!

Enter the giveaway for a copy of Law & Authors by leaving a comment below.  You may earn extra entries by blogging/tweeting/facebooking the interview and letting us know. The winner will be determined on June 26, 2020 and will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (US/Canada only) to receive the book.

If you’d like to know more about Jacqui and her agency, visit her website: https://jdlipton.com/index.html or https://ravenliterary.com/ or follow her on twitter: https://twitter.com/Jacqui_Lipton

 

Interview with Scott H. Longert author and book giveaway!

Scott H. Longert is the author of Cy Young: An American Baseball Hero, published by Ohio University Press, Biographies for Young Readers.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Shop your local indie bookstore

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us here at the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors!

What attracted you to share Cy Young’s story with younger readers?

I was thinking about somebody who would be relevant to a young reader, someone they wouldn’t know very well, but that they might have heard of them. Of course, we have the Cy Young Award, so I thought lots of young people might know about the Cy Young Award, but do they really know Cy Young the man. I knew some things about him, he came from a small town, and he rose up as high as you could go in baseball, so I thought he would be a good guy to write about.

You share in your author’s note that you went to the historical society and to where Cy lived. Can you share with readers how these experiences helped you in your research on Cy’s life?

It really kind of humbled me when I went there. He was born in Gilmore, (Ohio) a real small farm community outside of Newcomerstown, which is a fairly small community as well.  Just to see his imprint there, was amazing. When we came into town, we saw the Cy Young baseball field and park, and the museum devotes just about an entire wing to Cy and his life so you could see right away that he was a very important person It really helped me writing the book to getting a sense of who he was by visiting where he was born and the house he passed away.  To stop by and look at that house and to know that he sat on that porch many times, just a regular guy and just happened to be probably the greatest pitcher in the history of the game.

Please share with readers what Cy’s real name was, and how he came to be nicknamed “Cy.”

His real name was Denton. As a young boy, and as a teenager everyone called him Dent or Denton, and he was fine with it. He could throw a baseball extremely hard from a very young age and everyone knew it.  When he got his first tryout for professional baseball to pitch for Canton, he was on the mound, and  there were a few players watching, and he took his wind up, he threw the ball so hard that the catcher literally let it go by him and the ball smashed into the grandstand and apparently cracked some of the wood. Cy did this several times. One of the people watching commented, “Look at that man, he throws like a Cyclone!”  The name really stuck and then people, instead of calling him Cyclone, just called him Cy, and he liked that name. From then on, Denton disappeared, and everybody called him Cy.

Cy was born in 1867 and began playing professional baseball in 1890. Baseball was a slightly different sport then. You share the many changes from then until now in the book. Can you offer a few of the differences from then until now?

One of the major ones, was that there was no pitching rubber at the time, where the pitcher had to put their foot on it and couldn’t move off of it when they pitched then, they called it the pitchers box, they could stand at the end of it, they virtually could take three of four steps forward, and just launch the ball they didn’t have to be confined to one spot and just let a lot of momentum when you were going to throw the baseball. There were some other rules about “fair and foul” if you hit a foul ball, it wasn’t counted a strike, you could be at bat for quite some time and not have any strikes against you.

It wasn’t considered manly to try to and protect your hands at all, you were a tough individual only the catcher would wear a thin glove, kind of like what we’d wear in the winter, to shovel snow. When Cy got in the major leagues, a few guys here and there most guys felt like “I don’t need a glove, that’s for babies.” Eventually guys, after getting more broken fingers and broken hands, decided it would be a good idea to wear a glove to protect their hands. Cy didn’t wear one until mid-1890’s, so he resisted for many years. As the pitcher, you are closer than anyone else. But he would not wear a glove for the first three or four years of his career.

How long did Cy play?

Cy started in Canton 1890 and played all the way through 1911. He was in the Major Leagues for twenty years as a pitcher. His career was over several decades. Most guys not able to do. He had a lot of strength and stamina.

Do you feel the physical requirements as a farmer helped him to be so strong?

I think it had something to do with it. A number of guys would take it easy during the off season, the most they would do, they would hunt and fish.  Other guys had jobs, indoor jobs, sitting behind a desk. Cy was outdoors all the time, tending to his farm which was 125-150 acres, which was a lot of ground to cover. He believed in running. He would do a lot of running on his own, which was very rare for athletes at the time, he thought that helped him, so he would run. I’m sure wearing his farm clothes, coat and boots, running around the property, helped him. He’d usually come to spring training in good condition. It was customary to come to spring training, probably 5-10 pounds overweight, and use spring training to get back in shape. Other players would let themselves go over the wintertime.  Cy would come to camp just about ready to play for opening day and was usually several steps ahead of everybody else.

Tell me about Cy the man.

What I found was that Cy was a great member of the community, he was a good man, and he was honest. He was a clean-living man, he didn’t really drink, he didn’t smoke, when he wasn’t playing baseball, he was home with his wife and working at the farm. He was a hard worker, and  he never let success go to his head, he was the same guy he was when he was nineteen leaving for his first efforts in semi-pro baseball until the time of his retirement, he was the same guy, always kind and good hearted. I think that was the thing about the man that impressed me. He never had a big head about himself, like “don’t you know who I am, I’m the great Cy Young.” He didn’t think like that all, he was just a regular guy, who loved going home to the farm on the off season and being with his friends and family. He preferred staying home and reading or visiting with friends, he was very content with that, to be on the farm, take care of animals, plant crops and of course, chop down trees, which was his favorite thing. He was always willing to help anyone, anytime. He was very good to his friends, when people needing a helping hand, they could always call Cy.

As a fellow biographer, I stress the importance of primary sources with younger readers. What sources did you discover through your research? How did they help in sharing Cy’s life journey?

The Baseball Hall of Fame has a wonderful research library. The most important thing at the research library at Cooperstown is the player files. The Hall of Fame keep an active file on everyone who has played major league baseball. In the file you’ll find lots of newspaper clippings, magazine articles, which could be from 1893 up to something written a couple of years ago, photos, letters from the player, and to the player, statistics on the player, all kinds of things that help you get a picture of who the person was, as a ball player and a person. I think it is very vital in researching a baseball player, to see his player file and read everything there. And usually that leads to other sources. Ball players from long ago, born in small towns, usually there is a historical society that keeps the history of the town and the people who in it. If the baseball player comes from a small community, chances are the historical society will keep records of that person, and a lot of personal things, so that’s really important to visit the local historical society. If you can, in a lot of cases, the ball player you’re doing research on, has grandchildren or great-grandchildren, and usually the relatives are very happy that you are interested and happy to share stories that have been passed down from generation to generation.

The Cy Young award is given to the best pitchers in both the American League and the National League. The award was created the year after Cy’s death. How do you think he would feel about this honor?

It’s a shame that they didn’t decide to do the award while he was still alive. He would have been extremely happy and proud of the award. I think that after he passed away the Major Leagues, said what can we do for Cy? I think it would have been okay with him that even though he was gone, that baseball thought enough of him to create one of their biggest awards, and name it in his honor. Just knowing Cy, he was happy with whatever came his way. On his 80th birthday there was a big celebration in Newcomerstown, lots of people came to honor him, and give him gifts, and having a big piece of cake and dinner, shaking hands with people and that’s pretty much all he expected, and that made him happy.

In one sense it would have been great if he would have known about the award, I’m sure he would have been thrilled,  but his name still lives today and will live for quite some time, and I’m sure he would have been fine with that.

Is there anything that you would want our followers to know about your book about Cy Young?

It’s a look at early baseball, how the game evolved during Cy’s time, when it started, when he played ball first for Cleveland in 1891 and how the game gradually changed, until he retired in 1912. And a little bit of history about our country at the time. America was a growing place, with expansion and new jobs, and exciting things the telephone, and automobiles and then radio and television, Cy lived through all those things. Even Little League, Cy was a big fan, and would go out and talk to the kids and show them the fine points of being a good ball player. I think the book gives a good sense of America and all about baseball and how important it is to society by reading the book.

We’re giving away a copy of Cy Young: An American Baseball Hero! Contest applicable only to those living in the United States. Click here to enter!
a Rafflecopter giveaway