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Monday, May 21, 2012

e-Stalking Jon Sciescka

My first admission: I have a huge love-hate relationship with social media: I feel pressure to be interesting -- on my blog, on Facebook. I feel pressure to post with some degree of frequency so that I appear "current." And, I'm seriously starting to hate the whole freakin' thing. (If I have something that compelling to write, I'd prefer to create a manuscript. It just seems more productive.) And, I can't help but find Facebook to be the pinnacle of egocentrism. (Gosh, I'm just SO interesting that I'm sure all of these people would like to hear every tiny detail of my life. I just stubbed my toe: Quick! Let me snap a photo and post it! Ugh.)

And then it occurred to me: I can unabashedly use this forum (and my fab new position as an author) to make all of this fun for ME. Ha!

So here's another admission: Because I'm a huge fan of children's literature --- and growing more so every day --- I've started making it a personal goal to befriend my favorite authors and illustrators on Facebook. If they are suspect about befriending me, I'm guessing they Google me and assume that my NYT status makes me (sort of) one of them. So, I typically get "in." I'll be honest: it's a little charge for me to be accepted (even in this arm's distance way) into this most elite group.

So, about Jon Sciescka: (yet another admission) I have a little thing for him. (There. I said it.) He's WAY talented (rather a legend, actually). Super cute. And, I'm super intimidated. He was sitting at the table next to me at a conference a few months ago. Chronicle's Ginee Seo offered to introduce me, and I was simply (goofy-giggly-high-school-girl) giddy. (You have to know this about me: I don't get star-struck, typically. Movie stars, athletes: Nada. But, the legend of the Truck Town series? I'm a mess!) But, alas, Jon left early and the opportunity never presented itself. So, I worked up the courage to befriend Jon (I call him Jon) on Facebook -- and I'm in! I get a little rush of excitement whenever I see his posts come up. Weird? Yes. Don't judge me. I don't watch soap operas or reality TV (unless it relates to trucks), so give me this one vice. (By the way, I'm a happily married mother of two. Don't worry... just innocent e-stalking.)

My last admission: So, I've made a decision to use this forum (my blog, which I'll hype on Facebook) as a way to get to know my idols better. I'm going to tell their story as I see it (hopefully, with a little help from them) and highlight their awesomeness from a true fan's perspective. And, hopefully, from a writer's perspective as well. So, instead of dreading blog posts: I'm excited!

I'm sure this has been done before, but I'm hoping to bring something new to the table. And, I hope others will find this interesting. But, frankly, I don't really care. This is my vice.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

For the love of Indies... and our 23rd week on their list!

When my journey to authorhood first began, I don't know that I had ever even heard the term, "Indies." I learned quickly, though, that these are the independent, brick-and-mortar bookstores that sit on Main Street in Everytown, selling books and wares to a public that they intimately know and understand. In the post-Amazon age, where everyone is competing against a corporate giant that offers huge discounts based on big volume sales, Indies are increasingly in danger.

Now, forgive me if you disagree, I'm not anti-Amazon. (The boxes around my office with their telltale smiley faces on them bear witness to that!) I think, in many ways, Amazon has been good for the industry. But, I'd hate to see the end of shopping in-person for books. I love the smell of bookstores, the feeling of the pages, the helpful, bookish people who can steer you in the right direction, and the real owners and employees who actually live in the neighborhoods that the stores serve. They're such an important part of the publishing industry but, also, they're important to the community: they sponsor the little league teams and run ads in the programs for the high school musicals. They have a genuine, vested interested in the towns in which they stand. 

And, it's with such reverence that I say, with extreme gratitude, thank you to the Indies for our 23rd week on the IndieBound bestseller list!!! Some of my personal favorites: The Bookstall in Winnetka, Harvard Book Store (yes, THAT Harvard - Hi, Kari!), Spellbound in Asheville, NC (they are restructuring and moving, PLEASE support their new store!), Northtown Books in Arcata, CA, Anderson's in Naperville and Downers Grove, IL, 57th Street Books in Hyde Park, IL, Beaverdale Books in Des Moines, IA, The Great Debate in Quincy, IL ---- and hundreds of others: I love them all.

Before I ever saw my book on an Amazon ranking or in a Barnes & Noble, I could find it in the small, independent stores around the city, promoted by impassioned people who love children's literature. Two weeks after the book was released, it was on the Indiebound list --- while the B&N around the corner from me had still "never heard of it." That's huge. And something I won't forget. So here's the deal: If you're an Indie bookstore owner and there is ever anything that I can do to help you in your business, just ask. I owe you big. Thank you so much for noticing Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, and for your tireless support of my book, our industry and your community.


Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

2011 was an incredible year. Thanks to Chronicle Books, Tom Lichtenheld and all of the friends, fans (big and little!), bookstores and publications that have supported GNGNCS and me through this journey.

Tomorrow, New Year's Day, we are #4 on the NYT. On the 8th, we are #5 - our 12th week on the list. Happy New Year, one and all - And, thank you.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fears of being a one-hit wonder...

I am announcing it publicly here first: the ink has just dried on the contracts for my second book! I'm thrilled to be working with Chronicle Books again, and equally thrilled that Tom Lichtenheld has signed on to be the illustrator. The working title is Steam Train, Dream Train.

I've just finished a completely exhausting, gut-wrenching round of edits. Somehow I'd forgotten how difficult this part is. Two weeks of total tangle. Now, I await the next round...

Like my first book, this one is inspired by the passions of my youngest son and by my perspective from the vantage point of motherhood --- of mothering two amazing boys. I'm in love with the concept, and I have high hopes. But, admittedly, I have far more fear for this book than for the first, because there is expectation and precedent. In just a couple short weeks, Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site was released and went to the NYT Best Seller list. And then spent six weeks there (albeit a bit on-and-off). How do I top that? Is this second book as good? I certainly hope so, but I'm so entangled that I can't be objective. What if the critics don't like it? What if it's not well-received? What if sales aren't good? What if...?!

Then, that's it. I'd be done. Over. A has-been. My bright literary career dashed, making me the writing equivalent of Edison Lighthouse (look it up). And my hopes of giving up my day job: dashed. Back to the grind, hopelessly designing ads and brochures forever, into the abyss of my future...

And, speaking of the New York Times: I admit it: I'm obsessed. Some kind of hidden alarm goes off in my head every Friday afternoon, and I check the list online impulsively. I'm stalking it like a jilted girlfriend. Five weeks at number ten. One week at number nine. Why won't he (using the jilted girlfriend analogy) just make a commitment?! Let me move up! Let me stay there a while! And, seriously, you put HER ahead of me? WhatEVER. (Yes, apparently, I've developed quite the ego.) And, the bigger question is whether he will ever let me back on the list --- either with this book or the next. God, I love that list. I'm pining...

So, this is the brand new world in which I find myself. I'm unbelievably blessed to be here. But, somehow, I already have SO MUCH baggage...

Yeah. That sounds like me.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Some fun upcoming events!

One of the BEST (and most unexpected!) things about my new gig as author are all of the fun activities in which I get to participate.

First, I will help to judge a book contest with my friends at Scribble Press. I had the GREAT honor of seeing the Scribble Press concept first-hand during my visit to Manhattan in May. Kids create their own books - words, art, cover - the whole deal. It's a wonderful way to encourage kids to explore their inner voices, their creative selves. Plus, the end product is often sweet, funny, or touchingly beautiful. I was especially moved by the story of May's 5-year-old book contest winner (Aiden) who wrote a book titled, "How My Implant Changed Me," the story of how his cochlear implant allowed him to hear. Such a big concept, presented in such a sweet way. I'm really honored to be even a small part of the Scribble Press team, in any way they will let me wiggle in to their territory, because encouraging kids to read and write is one of my huge passions.

Next, on September 10, I'll be doing a reading and signing with my friends in Winnetka, IL at The Book Stall. I love that store! It's the quintessential neighborhood bookstore - serving as a place to not only buy books, but to meet authors and illustrators, attend story times and get a sense of what's new in the literary world - regardless of your favorite genre. Browse, talk to the knowledgeable staff, and leave with a book IN HAND, the old fashioned way. You really can't beat the personal touch of a great community bookstore... drop by a few times, and they will likely remember your name AND have a few things to recommend for you on your next visit. The Book Stall has been wonderfully supportive to me and Construction Site, and I'm hopeful to repay the favor: Please stop by with your favorite youngster at 3pm!

A little off-topic, Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site has received some additional great publicity from Publishers Weekly (our third time there!) in Thursday's Children's Bookshelf eblast. In a review in "What's selling at..." we had both a nice mention and photo, thanks to Monika Zerzan at Northtown Books in Arcata, CA. Thank you, Monika! California friends - please drop by Northtown Books!

I'll continue to keep you posted as I walk along this new road, filled with great new adventures and wonderful surprises. Every day, I'm reminded: I'm so deeply blessed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

So much great press, I hardly know where to begin...

 On June 30th, I helped lead part of a Young Writers Workshop,
offered by the Grayslake Public Library. Some wonderful young talent!
Photo courtesy of the Lake County Journal.

I'm so grateful for the wonderful response to Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site. The Chicago Tribune gave us a fabulous review. (I'm so thrilled they noticed the bit of mechanical detail I tried to incorporate into each truck's story; my son would be devastated by any inaccuracies!) A website titled Waking Brain Cells provided another nice endorsement. And, I was asked to do an interview for Kathy Mirkin's blog, The Write Words and was featured in a story in northern Illinois' Lake County Journal. Thank you to all of those publications and their writers for being so supportive to this book.

Topping off the great news is that we are back on the New York Times Best Seller List this week! Ok, it's our third week at the #10 spot... hoping, hoping, hoping to move up a notch or two, but THRILLED to be on there at all, of course.

I'm also deeply appreciative of all of the independent book stores out there. The book has been on the Indy Bestseller list for the last seven weeks! Please support those independent book sellers!

As always, thanks also goes to Chronicle Books and Tom Lichtenheld. Both are AMAZING.

Now, I'm at work on editing my next books. Please say a prayer for me... I'll need it!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

This kind of thing only happens to me, right?

A FABULOUS turnout at the Barnes & Noble book signing yesterday. Too fabulous, apparently. We ran out of books! Super awkward... lots of people in line, no books. Hmmm... I ask, "What do you typically do in a case like this?" "Well, this doesn't happen very often, to be honest." So, I am equal parts flattered and mortified. If you planned to drop by, but didn't make it... good thing!

This is just the kind of stuff that happens to me.

NYC. Gorgeous upper-east side hotel. I dress up, and prepare for a day to charm and impress at BEA. I hit the elevator button and ride 10 floors down, surrounded by carved mohagany. The paneled gold doors open. I take two steps and then fall on my face in the gorgeous marble lobby. Not a dainty little trip, mind you... a full-on header to the floor. (The upside is that Frank, the bell man, will always remember me. I received a charming little thumbs-up every time he saw me after that. I'm pretty sure I'll have a drinking buddy when I go back to Manhattan.)

Good news (and I've been SO BLESSED to be receiving lots of it lately), seems to come alongside kids' homework crises, delayed flights, illnesses, a leaking roof, rushing the dog to the vet, loads of laundry, making dinner and all of the other day-to-day that reminds me: I'm still just exactly who I am. And thank goodness.

So, apparently God has a sense of humor. And, likes to keep me grounded. No worries. Feet firmly on the floor. (When I'm not tripping on them.)