Posts Tagged publishing

Author Spotlight: Sandy Stark-McGinnis + a GIVEAWAY!

Like many modern friendships, mine with author Sandy Stark-McGinnis began on Twitter. The date was June 4, 2017, and Sandy was about to go on sub for her debut novel, EXTRAORDINARY BIRDS (Bloomsbury, 2019). We shared an agent at the time, and Sandy asked if I could share my insights into the submission process.

Three years later, Sandy and I are still exchanging messages on everything from our shared obsession with The Golden Girls, to our favorite wines (Sandy and I both enjoy reds, particularly Pinot). On a more serious note, when my dad was diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease, Sandy was there with love and support. Her dad suffered with Alzheimer’s as well, before passing away in 2010. This shared struggle brought us closer, and it gave me an even deeper respect for Sandy, and for her latest middle-grade novel, THE SPACE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND (Bloomsbury, April 28, 2020)—a novel that features a parent’s struggle with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Described by School Library Connection as “…{a} beautifully told novel of family and friendship that is brimming with love and feelings,” THE SPACE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND is available now from Bloomsbury Publishing. Here is a summary:

“Cassie’s always looked up to her mom, a vivacious woman with big ideas and a mischievous smile. Together they planned to check off every item on a big-dream bucket list, no matter how far the adventure would take them. But then Mom was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and everything changed.

Now, Cassie tries to keep Mom happy, and to understand some of Dad’s restrictive new rules. She tries to focus on math lessons and struggles to come up with art ideas that used to just burst off her pen. When Mom’s memories started to fade, so did Cassie’s inspiration. And even worse, she’s accidentally pushed away Bailey, the one friend who could make it all okay.

After the worst Mom day yet, the day she forgets Cassie’s name, Cassie decides to take action. It’s time for one last adventure, even if it means lying and taking a big risk to get there.”

 

MR: Hi, Sandy. Before we start, I must tell you how deeply moved I was by your novel. It really hit home, because my dad—like yours—had Alzheimer’s. How did your experience with this disease provide insight into your characters, particularly Cassie’s mom? The dad? Cassie…?

SSM: Thank you! My experience with my dad was extremely influential and definitely defined the way I portrayed the characters, from the way my dad behaved at different stages of the disease, to how my mom coped on a day-to-day basis, to how we–my brothers, sister and I–processed and navigated our way through the slow but very real loss of the man we called “Dad.”

MR: As above, THE SPACE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND focuses on a deeply personal topic. As you were writing and memories of your own experience with your dad’s Alzheimer’s surfaced, how did you keep your head above water emotionally? What advice would you give to other writers who choose to tackle emotionally difficult subjects?

SSM: I think the best way to go about facing any personal topics is to be in a place where those feelings are still strong but you can be objective about them, enough so you’re in the space (head and heart) of being able to portray characters and situations honestly. I think the hardest scene for me to write was when Cassie and her dad go to the assisted living facility to take a tour. I can still remember so vividly the day we took my dad to a facility. It was heartbreaking because his favorite place to be in the world was home, and to take him away from that, well… But, we (my family) knew it was what was best, because my mom could no longer take care of him.

MR: THE SPACE OF LOST AND FOUND is interspersed with flashbacks; the present day, and the years before Cassie’s mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. What was the purpose of using this stylistic device?

SSM: The use of flashback scenes was my editor, Allison Moore’s, idea. I think the purpose was to have a balance of emotion and to show what the family’s life was before the Alzheimer’s. I think the flashbacks also do a great job in establishing what Cassie and her father were saying goodbye to—the memories as a reminder of Kim’s (Cassie’s mom) energy and love for life.

MR: I know you’re familiar with the subject of Alzheimer’s Disease, but what kind of research did you have to do for this book? How did it affect your portrayal of Cassie’s mom? Of Cassie’s reactions to her mom’s disease?

SSM: Well, I mostly drew upon my experience with my dad. There are only a few ways early onset is different than other types of the disease. According to scientists, people who suffer from early onset have more of the brain changes that are linked to Alzheimer’s, and early onset is also linked to a defect in a certain part of a person’s DNA.

MR: Cassie’s mom, Kim, loves dolphins and swimming. I know you were a competitive swimmer back in the day (for 13 years!), but what’s the dolphin connection? Are you a dolphin lover, too?

SSM: In the story Kim’s best stroke was the butterfly, so I think I made the connection to dolphins that way. But I also found through research that dolphins have amazing memories. So, I thought someone’s love of dolphins and the fact they were suffering from Alzheimer’s was an interesting dynamic to explore.

MR: In addition to dealing with her mom’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Cassie is having friendship troubles with her ex-best friend, Bailey. Specifically, Cassie doesn’t feel able to talk to Bailey about her mom. As a teacher, what advice would you give to a middle-school student about talking to their friends about personally painful topics?

SSM: Friends can be a great support system. Sometimes when students are going through emotional issues at school, or at home, they just need a friend, or friends, to listen to them. But it’s also wise to have friends who will encourage you to reach out to an adult if you need help.

 

MR: As a teacher and a mom, I can only guess how hard it is for you to sneak in writing time. What’s your secret? Do you have a specific routine?

SSM: I do have a routine! I’m a morning person (thanks to getting up at four o’clock every morning in high school for swim practice), so I get up early to write. I usually set a goal—five hundred, a thousand words—and try to be as consistent with reaching that goal as I can.

What are you working on now, Sandy? Can you give us a teaser?

SSM: Right now, I’m working on a third middle-grade novel that’s based on something that happened to me—an experience that had a great impact on the way I see the world–when I was eight years old.

MR: And finally, since you and I are HUGE Golden Girls fans, I thought we’d finish this interview with—you guessed it, my friend—a GOLDEN GIRLS LIGHTENING ROUND! Are you game?

SSM: OH, YEAH!

Okay, here we go…

Dorothy, Blanche, Rose or Sophia? Rose.

Sicily or St. Olaf? St. Olaf.

Shady Pines or the Rusty Anchor? The Rusty Anchor.

Sophia’s lasagna or Rose’s beef tips on toast? I’m going with the lasagna.

Stanley Zbornak or Glenn O’Brien? Good ole Stanley.

Favorite guest star: George Clooney, Burt Reynolds, Sonny Bono, or Bob Hope? Burt Reynolds

“Johnny No Thumbs” or “Mr. Terrific”? Mr. Terrific!

Favorite episode? “Ladies of the Evening.”

It’s your birthday! Choose a gift: Rose’s piano-playing chicken, or “The Men of Blanche’s Boudoir” calendar? The chicken!

How do you like your cheesecake: Chocolate, or plain? Plain.

MR: Thanks for joining us on the Mixed-Up Files today, Sandy! I really loved your book and can’t wait to read the next one!

And now… a fabulous

GIVEAWAY!!!

Sandy has generously offered to gift a lucky reader with TWO autographed books; the paperback edition of EXTRAORDINARY BIRDS and a hardcover copy of THE SPACE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND. Just comment on the blog for a chance to win!

SANDY STARK-McGINNIS was born in California. Early childhood dreams: Play quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams or work as a forest ranger. Instead, she became a teacher, a job she found deeply fulfilling. Currently, she teaches fifth grade, and is amazed and inspired by her students every day. She spends her time reading (of course), and traveling with her husband and two children. Sandy believes her thirteen years as a competitive swimmer trained her to have the discipline and perseverance to journey through a writing life. You can find Sandy at her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram

 

Inside Copy Editing

How exciting! You’ve received a book contract and soon after, you begin the editing process. As you probably know, a book can go through any number of revisions with your editor. My first middle grade novel went through seven revisions, but my third novel, only two. Just when you think you’ve done everything you can possibly do with your manuscript, next comes the copy editing phase.

When I was a newbie author, I wasn’t quite prepared for the intense round of copy editing where everything from commas to style to hyphenation is checked and scrutinized. But there’s a reason for the madness, I assure you! And I’ve come to realize that the copy editor is my way-smarter-than-me BFF. Here are the issues that the all-important copy editor is responsible for:

1. Spelling and punctuation. Copy editors know their stuff, like when to use a comma to modify clauses or set off words such as “like” and “luckily.” This of course provides consistency throughout the novel and makes the author look like she knew what she was doing all along.

2. Hyphenation. I always seem to do it wrong, so thank goodness my copy editor is on top of whether or not to hyphenate half-baked, gross-looking, or sky blue. I’ve learned that hyphenation sometimes has to do with a noun or verb in the sentence. Who knew!

3. Capitalization is also carefully checked, such as language arts (lower case) but PE for physical ed. Numbers are a whole ‘nother section in regards to how to write time, ages, percents, heights, etc.

4. Copy editors also watch for the uniform use of specific types of text like italics for unspoken dialogue and thought, as well as the style for text messages, foreign words, sounds, and mouthed dialogue.

5. Grammar in general. The all-important “who” and “that,” the use of “then,” plus correct adverbs, verbs of utterance vs. gestures, and pronouns. And more grammatical goodies than you ever realized existed!

6. Fact checking. If you’ve written a historical novel and you’re describing an article of clothing for example, the copy editor will check that detail and may ask for more information from you. Copy eds will look at everything in the book to make sure it’s accurate and makes sense with the story.

Copy editors often create a “style sheet” with a list of characters and places mentioned in the book, as well as commonly used words and phrases, so everything remains consistent and is spelled the same throughout.

The majority of copy editing is done electronically on a document using comments (each person has a different color) and the track changes feature. It can sometimes be challenging to work with but it’s much better than the ol’ paper and pencil version. And once you’re done, you’re on the way to seeing page proofs and galleys, where your book starts to look like a book!

Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of the upcoming middle grade novel, Ethan Marcus Stands Up, publishing August 2017 from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin, and The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days and Calli Be Gold, both from Penguin Random House. Find her online at micheleweberhurwitz.com.

 

My First ALA Annual Conference

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A little over two weeks ago I got to attend my first ALA Annual conference. It was an exciting experience… and so exhausting. I was there not just as an attendee, but as an author. Lucky me!  I  was thrilled to be representing  three of my publishers: Charlesbridge, National Geographic Kids, and Nomad Press.

Why exhausting? I spent four days on  my feet about 10 hours a day discussing all things BOOKS.  It was awesome!

If you haven’t been to an ALA conference yet, you should go. It is definitely something to see if you love the literary world.

So what did I learn in my first adventure into ALA?

1) ALA is HUGE! Seriously. The room is massive and is FILLED with exhibits from every type of book imaginable: children’s (PB, CB, MG, YA), trade, educational, self-published,  Adult books of many different genres, graphic novels, and even self-help books. There are places to buy benches for your library, consultants to help you plan your technical needs, and also representatives from the Library of Congress and NASA.

My recommendation: Go in. Take a deep breath and get your bearings. It’s a lot to take in all at once.

 

This gives you an idea of the massive size of the convention area. This is one of their empty rooms. It  was actually twice this size. The other half stretched under the walkway I was on. See? HUGE

 

2)  Use your Conference Directory

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Yes, it’s a massive tome in and of itself. But it has all of the information you need. In fact, take a good look through it and make notes of things you want to do and people you want to see. There is a comprehensive list of authors who will be signing and if you know where they are you can get in line… EARLY!

That will save you the time of seeing a huge line, wondering who is there, and walking around to see that you missed the one awesome kidlit author that you definitely wanted to meet.  (Yes, that happened to me a couple of times)

3) Get a COGNOTES every morning

20160709_140603 This is the newspaper that the conference puts out. Every morning at the top of the stairs, people are standing their handing these out. Many people (like me) don’t take one. That is not a good idea. This is a GREAT source of everything that is happening that day.

 

 

4) TAKE THE FREE BOOKS!!

Every publisher is handing out books for FREE. They are just stacked on the tables and you can take them. It’s like being a kid in a free candy store.

People kept asking me “Would you like a book?”  UM YES!!

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This is just one small stack of the 20 books we came home with!

 

5) Find the Book Buzz Theatre, the Pop Top Stage and the Graphic Novel &Gaming Stage

These stages host various authors and editor speakers talking about fascinating topics. I was thrilled to be on a panel with Anastasia Suen and Chris Barton talking about STEM books for kids!

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6) Take time to meet up with author friends

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With author Miranda Paul at the We Need Diverse Books Booth

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Meeting author Sylvia Liu for the first time

 

 

 

7) Spend quality time with your editors

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With Alyssa Mito Pusey of Charlesbridge Publishing

 

8) Talk to many wonderful librarians about your books!

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Playing BRAIN GAMES at the Nat Geo Kids booth

 

Whew! Are you tired yet? And I didn’t even get to go to any of the hundreds of fascinating workshops and programs put on by amazing librarians, editors and authors.

There were so many things to do and see, you can’t possibly get to them all. So here is a short summation of some of the highlights of the conference:

For an amazing wrap up, I give you ALA Annual’s very own video. Go to this page and click on it:  http://2016.alaannual.org/

The ALA Archives has a great summary of many of the wonderful presentations here:  https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/tag/alaac16/

Some fabulous images from ALAAC16 shared by School Library Journal here

Matt de la Peña gave an awesome  2016 Newbery acceptance speech.                        It is a must-read! You can find it on the Horn Book Website here 

So are you game? Plan to attend the next ALA conference?

Here is my final piece of advice : Try to pick a few events that you want to attend and then fill in the rest of the time just walking around and seeing it all.  But whatever you see and do, just drink it all in. After all, its ALL ABOUT BOOKS!!

 

***** Jennifer Swanson is the author of over 25 books, mostly about STEM, because, well, STEM ROCKS! You can find her at her website: www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com