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From Idea to Bookshelf Part 6 (It’s Here!): Love Can Come in Many Ways

It’s Here!

In my last post, I spoke about waiting while your book has gone to print. It can feel like forever so when it arrives at your door and you FINALLY get to hold YOUR BOOK in your own hands, well, it’s nothing short of magical. Here’s a video of me seeing Love Can Come in Many Ways for the first time. Oh, and you never know when your books will arrive, so please excuse the down-dressed appearance. And I never realized how squeaky my voice gets when I’m excited!

I don’t know if you could tell, but there were tears in my eyes. It’s so incredibly special to hold my book for the first time. And I am profoundly grateful to my editor, Ariel Richardson, Chronicle Books, and our wonderful illustrator talent, Suzy Ultman.

Now, I cannot wait for little ones to hold in their own hands! It’s coming out October 20, but you can preorder HERE.

From Idea to Bookshelf Part 5 (Waiting): Love Can Come in Many Ways

Waiting

Last post, I shared the collaboration process for Love Can Come in Many Ways. I left off after the twenty-eight months of collaboration, followed by Chronicle sending Love off to the press (early this year). The original publication date for Love was August 2020, but like so many book releases this year, Chronicle postponed it until October 20 (plan ahead for holiday shopping!)

So, what does an author do while their book is being printed, which takes a few months (usually about six, in my experience)? I’ve always referred to this period of time as waiting for the slow boat from China (literally, sometimes!). Well, I always do two things—work on the next book, and think about how to promote the upcoming book.

The segue into the next book came fairly easily for me after Love. I had already started working on a “sequel” or “companion” book, hoping Chronicle would be interested (I won’t go into the details here because I don’t like talking about works in progress). To my delight, my editor was interested in discussing future books. We exchanged some ideas, so I sent her a couple of manuscripts that she shared with our amazing illustrator, Suzy Ultman. I felt that—while there was no commitment from Chronicle on any projects—we were moving in a positive direction. Our discussions centered around how to bring more love, kindness, compassion and goodwill into young readers’ lives through books. All great things, in my opinion.

And then Covid-19 hit.

Covid is deadly serious and not something to make light of, as we all know. But in addition to the health crisis, one of its fall-outs has been the uncertainty and disruption to businesses everywhere, including the publishing industry. I won’t pretend to understand all the financial impacts and intricacies, but it has definitely slowed down the cogs and gears of the publishing business. At least, until we have more certainty about the future.

So, my editor kindly and compassionately informed me that our potential projects would have to wait a bit. I can’t imagine how hard it is/was for editors to tell their authors and illustrators about book release delays, projects being put on hold, etc. But I certainly understood. I just said to myself…

Be patient, grasshopper.

Give it some time.

Just take it one step at a time…

And really, with everything happening in our world right now, this is not the worst thing. Sometimes, life makes us stop, take a breath, rethink things; appreciate the good around us and within us. And boy, do I have a lot for which I’m thankful!

Back to writing, while I’m continuing to work on some other manuscripts, I’m also focusing on Love’s book promotion (the other thing I do while waiting for a book to come out). And book promotion during a pandemic has had its challenges! No book launch or in-store signings. But I’m trying other things—I‘ve expanded my social media presence, including revamping my Twitter account (I even opened an Instagram account, which I’m still trying to figure out!). I’m blogging again (obviously!) and in October and November, you’ll find some fun posts, interviews, and giveaways. I’m doing a joint virtual book launch is December and some other virtual events to celebrate the release of Love Can Come in Many Ways (more details to come on those events).

Because, you know, we should all be spreading the love a little!

Stay tuned!

From Idea to Bookshelf: Part 3: Love Can Come in Many Ways

The Submission Process

Last week, I left off with a polished final draft of Love Can Come in Many Ways, ready to send to my agent. For me, this part of the writing-submission process is just as stressful as submitting to an editor. Despite feeling like I had written a strong piece, there were no guarantees that she (or an editor) would feel the same way! We work in a highly subjective business, after all. But as I once heard author and editor Arthur Levine say, “Nobody is going to show up at your door and ask to look in your file cabinet so you have to submit your work.”

So, off it went! I let her know I envisioned the manuscript as a picture book or a board book, depending on an editor’s vision. And of course, I’d be happy to revise. I crossed my fingers after hitting “Send” and, between you and me, was hoping she’d read it right away, especially since it was only 104 words. (by the way, shorter word counts don’t seem to affect how quickly editors or agents will read your work!).

Approximately six weeks passed without a response to Love from my agent (in all fairness, we were discussing other manuscripts as well—Love just hadn’t come up.). But I was so convinced, so completely certain, that Love would sell, I emailed her(after the six weeks) and essentially begged her to send it out. She soon wrote back and said she was still thinking on it. I put on my “patience” cap and waited…

Have I ever mentioned how much patience a writer should have? (probably true for editors and illustrators, as well!).

A week later, she wrote me back with lovely things to say about the manuscript, including that she was going to send it out to five editors THAT DAY. I was so happy to finally have Love out on sub…

…but when we got interest from Chronicle Books FIVE DAYS LATER, I knew my gut was right—it was going to sell.

Woo-hooooo!

Now, getting “interest” is exciting, but it’s no guarantee. And I knew not to get my hopes up too much, after the initial excitement. The editor wanted to share it with her team, and show the manuscript to one of their illustrators. Again, I put on my patience cap (by the way, I don’t really have an actual cap).

A month later, we received an email from Ariel Richardson, editor extraordinaire, letting us know the illustrator, Suzy Ultman, loved the manuscript, so we could expect an offer. But…here was the surprise—they wanted to publish it as a novelty book! A NOVELTY BOOK! They loved the idea of having movable arms, paws, tails, etc. for little ones to manipulate. I’d never published a novelty book before (although I’d certainly thought about it), so this was icing on the cake for me!

Another month passed, and we received the official offer letter with all the details. And I’ll say here that based on that letter alone (positive, enthusiastic, professional), I knew working with Chronicle was going to be amazing. And it has been! Seriously, it’s this writer’s dream.

At that point, we worked out some minor changes to the terms of the contract, so the contract process could move forward. (it can take anywhere from a few weeks to few months for an agent and publisher to finalize a contract). I was walking two feet above the ground, elated that Love had sold, and knowing I was going to get to work on a novelty book with one of the best editors in the business!

I should also note that the process up to this point had happened quickly. I don’t usually get a manuscript to perfection in a couple of months. And this was the second fastest submission response I’d ever received.

Next post, I’ll talk about the collaborative process with the book’s production (warning: the collaboration process took over two years—my post won’t be that long, I promise.).

If you’d like to preorder Love Can Come in Many Ways, just click HERE.

Available in stores and online October 20, 2020.
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From Idea to Bookshelf Part 2: LOVE CAN COME IN MANY WAYS

The Writing Process

On my last post, I ended with my idea and what inspired me to write Love Can Come in Many Ways (available for preorder HERE). This manuscript took a few turns along the path toward becoming submission-ready.

As I mentioned last week, I began writing this in early 2017, when I was feeling so saddened by the lack of civil discourse in our country. I mean, how could be people be so unkind and disrespectful to each other? After being motivated by some beautiful animal photos, I began writing a new picture book, Tummies, Tongues and Twisty Trunks: Love is Everywhere.

I know, I know! That was a mouthful for a title! I loved the alliteration of the first part, but as is, it sounded like a nonfiction book, so I added the subtitle to make sure the concept and tone was clear. But yeah, what a mouthful of words! So, I put the title issue on hold and started to write.

At that point, I knew the topic: animals showing affection. I knew the meter (rhythm pattern) I would use throughout, which I wrote at the top of the page to keep me in rhythm as I wrote:

/ – / – / – /,

/ – / – / – /

Or, if you prefer…

DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM,

DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM.

(Note: Sometimes I used a “pause” for the middle unstressed beat:

/ – / || / – /,

/ – / || / – /

DUM da DUM || DUM da DUM,

DUM da DUM || DUM da DUM.

It only took a few weeks to come up with a solid draft. Inspired by gorgeous photos, I made a list of key words that came to mind, such as trunk, fur, arms, paws, tails, etc., depending on the animal. I played with the verbs (gerund form) and prepositions to fit with the rhythm (embracing arms, protecting wings…). This really is the kind of writing I LOVE to do so it was pure joy for me to do this kind of detailed wordplay.

Once I got the animal part down, I knew I wanted to include humans in the mix, as well. I decided to do this by creating two couplets  to include ways that humans show affection, love, and kindness (one in the middle, one at the end). I brainstormed another list, everything from hugging and kissing to holding hands to playing games to simply smiling at one another. Here’s another favorite inspirational photos…doesn’t this child’s face say it all?

I tinkered with the rhyme and rhythm a lot. One “trick” I always do when I write in rhyme is to walk while reading my story out loud (thank you, Ann Whitford Paul, for sharing that trick with me so very many years ago!). This is a sure-fire way of “feeling” any glitches in the rhythm (like tripping on a crack in sidewalk if your meter is off!). The other thing I do is ask my husband to read it out loud to me. One of the best tips for checking your work–prose or verse–is to have someone read it aloud who is NOT used to reading aloud. This is a great way to hear how a future book buyer might read your work (and you might be surprised at how differently someone might read a sentence than how you hear it when you write it!).

And of course, I did multiple scans of my text, to make sure my rhythmic pattern was consistent. Because this book was so simple and intended for very young readers, I chose to keep a consistent meter. With longer picture books, I’ll often break the rhythm at an appropriate time, such as a pivot point in the story or where the action is disrupted. But with LOVE, that wasn’t necessary.

After about two months into working on the manuscript, I asked my writing group to review it for me. Their initial response was hugely positive. A couple of concerns were the title (too nonfiction-y sounding), and they guided me towards submitting it as a board book, not a picture book. Multiple people said it was “too thin” for a picture book, that the simplicity and “list” feeling of ways of affection seemed to read “board book” more than “picture book.” Did I mention how helpful writing groups can be? (or writing partners!)

I made a few small changes, including changing the title to Love Can Come in Many Ways. Then, I felt like it was ready to send out (I got the idea in January 2017 and it was now early April). I was super excited about the manuscript and had a good feeling about it. Now, it was a matter of hoping my agent would be as excited about it as much as I was.

Next post, I’ll talk about the submission process. Stay tuned!