Author: johnmcusick

Agent with Greenhouse Literary, representing children's books and young adult. Author of GIRL PARTS and CHERRY MONEY BABY. Mostly harmless.

Congrats Julie!

JulieOlsonHeadshotCongrats to Julie Olson on her four-book illustration deal with HarperCollins / Zondervan! (You may remember Julie joined the agency back in September. You can read an interview with Julie here.)

From Publishers MarketplaceJulie Olson to illustrate Mona Hodgson’s four PRINCESS TWINS books, important spiritual lessons in kindness, humility, inner beauty, and trusting God, to Cindy Davis at Zondervan, by John Cusick at Greenhouse Literary Agency (World).

Interview with Rahul Kanakia

RahulKanakiaRahul Kanakia and I started working together last year. In April his debut y.a. novel, ENTER TITLE HERE, sold to Disney-Hyperion, and will pub next fall. Pitched as Gossip Girl meets House of Cards (I KNOW RIGHT), the novel takes the form of an unpublished manuscript written by over-achiever Reshma Kapoor as she launches a Machiavellian campaign to reclaim her valedictorian status after being caught plagiarizing.

I’ve blabbed before about how awesome Rahul’s blog is, but today one of my fav writer/thinkers treats us to his insights on writing, sociability, and finding an agent:

When and how did you start writing?

Rahul: I started when I was a senior in high school. I’d always harbored a vague ambition to write stories (ever since I discovered, by reading the submissions guidelines for the official D&D magazine, DRAGON, that it was actually possible to sell a story for money to a publication), but I’d never gotten around to actually do it. I can’t say why I decided to start writing one, but I know that I finished my first story on or around December 20th, 2003, and promptly submitted it to the highest-paying science fiction magazine that I could find (where it promptly earned me the first of what are, at last count, approximately 1,240 short story rejections).

Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?

I’d say that it was probably Isaac Asimov’s Foundation. My mom gave it to me, saying that she’d read and enjoyed it when she was a girl my age, living in India. That novel led me to read all kinds of science fiction writers. I loved Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Anne McCaffrey, Mike Resnick, Mercedes Lackey, and all kinds of other writers. In terms of children’s books, I really enjoyed British boarding school books (again, this is the influence of my mom) like the works of Enid Blyton. Oh, and, of course, I enjoyed Astrid Lindgren.

Can you talk us through the writing of your first book? What were the key moments?

I got the idea while I was reading this Michael Lewis’ compendium of financial reportage surrounding the 2007-8 financial panic and collapse. And during one of the stories, the journalist writes about protests in Korea by students who feel like they’re being forced to study too much. During the protests, they marched down main thoroughfares, chanting “We are not study machines!”

Something about that phrase was really evocative for me, and I thought “study machines, study machines…there has to be something I can do with that.” And I started developing this sleek dystopian story involving people being forced to study really hard.

But then, as I was thinking about it, I was like, “What? This doesn’t need to be dystopian at all. This is real life. Here in this world, in our country, there are kids who feel compelled, by society, to study allll the time. So I decided to write about one of them.

The actual writing took place over 31 days, from the end of December to the end of January. I wrote most of it while I was on a family vacation in India. A significant chunk, maybe a third, was written while we were at a rented villa in Sri Lanka that had its own beach and private chef. Now that’s a writing retreat.

Was it hard to get an agent ? Can you talk us through the process?

I wrote ETH in January of 2013. At that point, I had another novel that I’d submitted to a contest for YA novels by people of color. I lost that contest, but I did become a finalist. And the winner of the contest, Valynne Maetani, knew John (she was about to sign with him) and offered, out of the blue, to put me in touch with him. I think it’s the most thoughtful writing-related thing that anything has offered to do for me. Anyway, he liked that book and wanted to sell it. I revised it throughout summer of 2013 and it went on submission to five editors in October/November of 2014, and was rejected by all of them. At that point, John had read ETH and both he and I were more excited about that, so we revised it and it sold in May of 2014.

Getting an agent was definitely happenstance. I’d previously queried 93 agents with that first book. I’m still surprised that John saw something in it that 93 other agents didn’t.

Describe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?

In general, I think writers really overstate how much time they actually spend writing. I was recently talking to a group of YA writers and one of them brought up her brother, who’s a restaranteur and works sixteen hours a day, and someone else said, “Yeah, but that’s how it is in creative professions, right?”

And I was like, “Alright. Come on. Let’s level. None of us work sixteen hours a day? It’s more like two, right?”

Then everyone looked at me like I was crazy and someone stepped in to change the subject. But I am still firm in my belief that most writers either really exaggerate how much time they spend writing, or their writing time also involves a lot of internet-browsing and Twitter time.

Each Thursday, I decide how many hours of writing I want to do on each of the coming seven days. Then I keep track of whether or not I actually do that many hours and how many days in a row I’ve managed to meet my goal. In terms of actual goals, I usually try to go for 15 hours in a week, though sometimes I hit 18 or 20. When I write, I use the Freedom app to turn off my internet, and I wedge my phone into the folds of the could cushion, so I can’t see it or easily extract it.

Inspiration is tricky. I’m not sure about that. Often I’m inspired by garish stories that I read in the Lifestyles section of the newspaper. Other times I’m inspired by books that I’ve read.

Can you tell us about your next book?

Nope. I have no idea what it’ll be.

Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?

Yes. Write hard. Read good. Keep trying. All of that is good advice.

I’d also say that it’s not a bad idea to try to meet other writers. Now, this is not necessary. I didn’t know that many other writers before I started publishing, and writing is one of the few creative professions where it’s possible to get really far even if you have zero connections. In fact, most writers get their agents through blind querying.

But if you go out and meet other writers and befriend them, either in person or on twitter, they can be of help to you. First of all, you’ll often find that if you stay friends with aspiring writers for a few years, then some will break out, find agents, get book deals, etc. And the ones who move ahead can help the ones who’re still struggling to make it. Also, the more contacts you have in the book / publishing world, the more anticipation there’ll be for your book when it actually releases. It’s hard to overstate how many books there are. And most of them are just a name, a title, and a blurb. If, on the other hand, even a few people look at that name and say, “Hey, I know that person,” then that helps.

Now I know that someone out there will read what I wrote and get super-depressed because many writers are anxious and depressive and introverted. Please don’t. I’m not saying that you need to be the coolest and most popular person in the YA world. You don’t. I’m saying to take baby steps. Get on Twitter. Follow other YA writers. Tweet at them once in awhile. I think you’ll be surprised by how little time it takes before you start to get somewhat friendly with them.

Can you describe three aspects of writing craft that have been most important as you’ve developed as an author?

Write in scene. It took me years to learn this. Narrative summary can be bold and have a good voice and be interesting, but it’s rarely surprising. It doesn’t include those chance side-characters and little bits of setting and gesture that take the book in surprising directions. If you write in scene, you’re giving yourself a chance for something to happen.

Choosing what tense to write in has become an extremely maddening problem. People will tell you to write in past tense like it’s extremely simple, but I find it maddening. If I’m writing in past tense (particularly in the first person), then when is the narration situated? Why is the narration proceeding chronologically? Why isn’t the narrator living up things with bits of future knowledge? Also, how can there be any character change: the person telling the tale is, throughout, the person who’s already changed.

On the other hand, present tense isn’t more satisfying. It’s too artificial and too constricting. It feels like it limits you too much to a given moment. It doesn’t allow you to break out of the moment and float more freely through the character’s psyche and their life.

Finally, I have a continued problem with description. Things are important. Objects are important. They’re an important part of life: our choice of objects and surroundings tremendously influences our mood. And they’re also intrinsically interesting. No one wants to just be with heads and words all the time. What I like about novels is that they affirm the importance of the physical world. They affirm the importance of tiny details and little gestures. They’re about what it’s like to be living life in a particular body in a particular place at a particular time. However, I’m terrible at describing things. I just don’t see them in my mind’s eye very well. It’s something I’m working on

Which favorite authors would you invite to a dinner party? What fictional character do you wish you’d invented?

I’d invite Ayn Rand to a dinner party, because I read Old School, which describes a dinner meeting with Ayn Rand, and it seems magnificent. She just so totally believed in her own philosophy. How could that fail to be endearing?

I’d also invite Tolstoy, because, judging by his essays, he always had something interesting to say. I don’t know whether I’d invite bearded old prophet Tolstoy or younger more literary Tolstoy, though. Maybe I’d invite them both.

ENTER TITLE HERE (Disney-Hyperion, Fall 2015) on Goodreads.

Read some of Rahul’s short fiction at Clarkesworld and Birkensnake.

Courtney Alameda and SHUTTER on the Fierce Reads Tour!

Been sitting on this news for weeks and am so so so excited to finally announce: Courtney Alameda will be on Spring 2015′s FIERCE READS TOUR!

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Courtney’s seriously creepy y.a. SHUTTER is coming February 3rd from Feiwel & Friends:

9781250044679Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat — a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She’s aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera’s technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn’t exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she’s faced before . . . or die trying.

Lock, stock, and lens, she’s in for one hell of a week.

Visit Courtney’s website, follow her on Twitter, and like her on Facebook.

Check out SHUTTER on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, and Goodreads.

A MAD WICKED PAPERBACK REVEAL

10.25.14 Update: MAD WICKED FOLLY just made its *third* Booklist Top Ten List!

Congrats to Sharon Biggs Waller on her new paperback cover!

MWF Paperback Cover

Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.

            After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?

A MAD WICKED FOLLY on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, Goodreads

Welcome New Client Dannie Morin!

Today we’re welcoming Dannie Morin to the Greenhouse family! I’m thrilled to be working with Dannie on her debut y.a. ARROW & NIGHT, a rad, gender-flipped contemporary retelling of Robin Hood set on the U.S. / Mexican border.

Yeah. I KNOW.

Dannie is an addictions therapist by day, as well as a freelance editor, book blogger, and regular mentor/co-host in Brenda Drake‘s pitch contests. You can check out Dannie’s blog here, and follow her on twitter.

Dannie MorinWhen and how did you start writing?

Dannie: I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. In early elementary school I won some sort of writing contest and had my epic ten-sentence story “How the Dog Got His Tail” published in the school anthology (complete with illustrations of tailless, stick-figure dogs). I wrote my first novel–an unabashedly shameless boy band fan fiction–in fifth grade. It was a big hit with my best friend and about five girls in my homeroom class. All through school I was involved in writing—the first writer on my middle school newspaper staff to ever have an article banned by school administration, editor for my high school’s literary magazine, and that token obnoxious freshman in my upper-level creative writing classes in college. It wasn’t until I married my husband that he suggested I was serious about it. So I got serious about it.

Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?

The first book I remember connecting with was THE UGLY DUCKLING. And it’s sort of a perfect metaphor for writing, isn’t it? When we start writing we have no idea where we belong, what we’re doing, who we are. And once we figure it out, writing life is pretty awesomesauce.

When I was a little older, I had this amazing teacher, Mrs. Altenburg, who read books aloud to us that were way too advanced for our reading level. We would lie around on the floor in her classroom and listen to her read and it was absolutely my favorite thing about school. So I got really into THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA in third or fourth grade. I was convinced there was a world hidden inside my closet. It turns out it was just a bunch of old dance recital costumes and broken tap shoes. But I loved C.S. Lewis’ world-building.

Can you talk us through the writing of ARROW & NIGHT? What were the key moments?

I’d wanted to write a reimagining for a while but I also wanted to stay true to who I am as a writer—gritty contemporary and maybe a little controversial. I was at SCBWI Carolinas about a year ago when the idea of a Robin Hood retelling set at the US/Mexico border popped into my head, fully-formed. I spent October 2013 plotting and wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo. That was as exhausting as it sounds, so I put it away for about four months before I started revising. I started querying in August and here we are.

 Was it hard to get an agent?

I actually wish there was less focus on that phrase in our community—“get an agent.” It’s more important that you find the right agent for you, who can champion your career and not just one book. Not any agent can do that. The harder parts of this journey have been finding the right agent who not only falls in love with the book I’m pitching, but gets me as a writer. Someone I can see myself building a career with, a partnership that’s going to last for a long time. And I am so stoked to have found that in John Cusick. But it wasn’t easy. Finding the right agent is something entirely different from writing itself, and for me it took a sort of bravery that was definitely outside my comfort zone. And maybe a little magic and fate and higher powers and whatnot, too.

Describe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time?

My writing time fluctuates. I work a full-time job ten months a year. I also have a two-year-old and I do some freelance writing and editing as well. Basically I don’t sleep. Seriously though, I write when I can. I think the biggest advantage to being a plotter is that I can write a story completely out of order as the mood strikes, and it makes sense when I put the puzzle pieces together at the end of the draft. So if I please the traffic gods and make it to a meeting 20 minutes early, I’m on my phone dictating narrative into Evernote or frantically typing an email to myself before I forget a bit of dialogue that struck me. Probably 25 percent of ARROW AND NIGHT was written on my phone in spare moments. And I’ve been known to roll over in the middle of the night, draft a scene, and not remember doing it when I wake up in the morning. But I’m also blessed to have the most amazing husband who supports my writing 500%. He takes our daughter out every Sunday, and I get a couple hours of solid writing time. And my kid is pretty awesome, too. She’s a great sleeper, so I have some time between her bedtime and my bedtime most nights. But I have to be the one to dedicate that time for writing.

Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?

Don’t worry about what other writers are doing. Your journey is yours. Keep writing. Keep reading. And when it comes to querying–do it scared.

Can you describe three aspects of writing craft that have been most important as you’ve developed as an author?

Plot structure–Before I started taking publishing seriously, I thought a needed a beginning and an end and what happened in the middle was pretty much anything goes. A few years ago I discovered Larry Brooks’ series on story architecture and it has truly changed the way I think about plot. It was a lot to process and digest but my writing is ten thousand times stronger for it.

Voice–I’ve read in a few places that voice is something that can’t be taught, but I disagree. Or at least I think it can be learned. One of the things I hear from my CPs is that I have great voice, but that definitely was not always the case. I used to think voice was something that characters had, the ways they spoke in dialogue, but not something that was important in narration. I think becoming a more intentional consumer of kidlit really helped me in that respect.

Balancing backstory and forward momentum–One thing I still struggle with is remembering that the reader doesn’t need to know everything I know about a character. I make a lot of notes on characterization before I start writing. And I used to try to incorporate as many of those notes as possible into the story itself, which leads to mass quantities of infodump and unnecessary backstory. I was reading an interview JK Rowling gave and she was talking about Dean Thomas’ parents, whom you never really hear about in the books. But not knowing those things didn’t negatively impact Rowling’s storytelling. It just gave her something interesting to talk about in interviews.

Which favorite authors would you invite to a dinner party? What fictional character do you wish you’d invented?

I would love to have dinner with Matthew Quick. He has the most fantastic characterization and voice skills and he gives voice to people who need more heroes like themselves in books. I think dinner with Rae Carson would be a blast. She’s so funny and personable and I love, love, love her world-building skills. It would be fun to have dinner with John Green, too, because we both ‘did time’ in Winter Park, Florida growing up, and because his deep empathy and understanding of adolescents is so apparent in his writing.

As for a character I wish I’d invented, the storyteller is as important to making the character unique as the character’s personality and quirks and motivations. If anyone but Veronica Roth wrote Tris Prior, she wouldn’t be Tris Prior. But if I had to pick, I would probably choose Dolores Umbridge. She is so wonderfully obnoxious—the sort of antagonist you love to hate—and I really think it would be fun to plug her into various scenarios and torture her to the delight of readers.

 

 

 

Link Roundup: Words and Music

Cool stuff from some Class of 2015 clients last week:

Rahul Kanakia, whose amazing debut ENTER TITLE HERE is coming from Hyperion in Fall 2015 (think House of Cards meets Gossip Girl. Yeah.) has two new short stories. You can read one right now at the sci-fi and fantasy magazine ClarkesworldSeeking boarder for rm w/ attached bathroom, must be willing to live with ghosts ($500 / Berkeley)

(And if you aren’t following his blog, Blotter-Paper, you should.)

Then check out Tommy Wallach performing “Madeline“, a song from the upcoming “We All Looked Up” album, to accompany his novel of the same name. Both the book and the album come out on March 31, 2015. Subscribe to his channel to see more!

In other news: it’s fall! Hooray!

WE ALL LOOKED UP on Goodreads. Pre-order now at Barnes & NobleAmazon, or Indiebound.

ENTER TITLE HERE on Goodreads

Pics, Posts, and Lists– Last Week’s Link Roundup

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 10.14.21 AMThis spring Sharon Biggs Waller‘s debut y.a. A MAD WICKED FOLLY was selected as one of Booklist‘s Top Ten Historicals. This week FOLLY is back on their list of Top Ten Romance Fiction for Youth. Go Sharon! [10.25.14 Update: MAD WICKED FOLLY just made its *third* Booklist Top Ten List!]

Courtney Alameda‘s mind-numbingly terrifying SHUTTER will pub from Feiwel & Friends in January, but in the meantime, here’s Courtney on Scream Queens with a fabulous article about creating better scares with compelling protagonists.

ByWz10UIUAAIaVo-1It’s an author’s (and an agent’s) dream to spot one of your books in the wild– but it really doesn’t get much better than these two young readers with Ryan Gebhart’s THERE WILL BE BEARS (Candlewick Press, 2013) and Hannah Moskowitz’s ZOMBIE TAG (Roaring Brook Press, 2011).

 

 

A MAD WICKED FOLLY on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, Goodreads
SHUTTER on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, Goodreads
THERE WILL BE BEARS on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, Goodreads
ZOMBIE TAG on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, Goodreads

WE ALL LOOKED UP selected for ABA’s Indies Introduce Debut Authors List

IndiesIntroduceDAExciting news from American Booksellers Association last week: Tommy Wallach‘s WE ALL LOOKED UP (Simon & Schuster, March 2015) has been included on their Indies Introduce Debut Authors list!

From ABA’s announcement:

“For the fifth consecutive season, two panels of booksellers from every region of the country have chosen 10 debut adult titles and 10 children’s titles for the Indies Introduce Debut Authors and New Voices promotion. Featured Winter/Spring titles include fiction and nonfiction, middle grade and YA, publishing between January and June 2015.

Tommy WallachThese standout debuts will take readers from the familiar to the exotic, from New York to Paris, from Montana to Pakistan, and to Swedish Lapland in the 1700s. There’s a mystery, an unforgettable boy and dog, unusual chickens, and a first book by an independent bookseller from Mississippi.”
I’m so excited to see WALU (as we call it ’round here) included on this list, especially on the heels of our big film announcement last week. You can add WE ALL LOOKED UP on Goodreads or pre-order it on Barnes & NobleAmazon, or Indiebound. Which you should do.

Welcome Julie Olson!

JulieOlsonHeadshotI’m delighted to welcome veteran artist and author/illustrator Julie Olson to Greenhouse! Julie and I met in 2012 at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference in Utah (which I highly recommend), where Julie was teaching a class on illustrating picture books. Though I’d worked with picture book authors before, this was my first experience addressing a room full of illustrators. Throughout my talk Julie stood off to the side, and whenever I was a bit uncertain she’d shoot me an encouraging thumbs up. For the rest of the conference Julie was my sometime driver, showing me the sights of beautiful Provo and also ensuring I visited Starbucks at least twice a day. Julie kept me sane, punctual, and caffeinated all week.

So it was a delight to see her this year when I returned to WIFYR. Julie was hosting an author shindig at Salt Lake’s legendary independent bookstore, King’s English. We caught up over stuffed peppers and pigs-in-blankets, and she told me about her latest book, Discover America. We discussed the picture book world, the commercial art world, and I mentioned I thought artists ought to have a dedicated illustration agent, as separate from their commercial artwork representation, as the markets are so different.

Julie considered this, and sipped her sparkling apple cider.

Now, lo, it’s a few months later, and Julie and I are going to be working together, which makes me deliriously happy. Whenever a new client joins the agency, we ask them a few questions about their work, their process, etc. Julie’s answers are fabulous. Check it out:

When and how did you start writing and/or illustrating?

Well apparently my artistic history goes all the way back to my toddler days. Apparently, my mom would often turn around from her task at hand to find me quietly drawing tiny circles in ballpoint pen all along the baseboards of her white walls. Being the patient woman she was, she simply shook her head in amazement at my finger dexterity and provided plenty of paper and art supplies from then on. As I grew older, I checked out “how-to-draw” books from the local library and even set the old VCR to record Bob Ross and other PBS painting shows. I asked Santa for my first set of real artist paints at the age of 11 and from then on I’d get home from school and try copying the PBS masters’ paintings. In the meantime, my love of the written word developed as well. My favorite times were when my busy dad would spend time reading Mark Twain stories in all the voices or when my sister and would stay up late telling each other stories of “Marshmallow Pie Bar Mysteries.”

IMG_7816Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?

We loved books in my house so it’s hard to pin down only one book. My siblings and I even set up a neighborhood library for the kids on our street. Complete with card pockets on the inside of every book cover. Mostly we just liked to stamp the card and check out the books to ourselves, but we had a grand time with it. Some of my early favorite books included Lillian Holban’s Frances series, “The Country Bunny and the Little Golden Shoes,” and Nora Smaridge’s “The Big Tidy Up.” I also always loved to read Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Pippy Longstocking and Judy Blume books, along with “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”  And of course, a soft spot for Mark Twain (in my dad’s voice).

Can you talk us through the writing of your first book? What were the key moments?

I had been illustrating books for about 9 years as well as attending conferences, meeting with writers, and studying the art of writing all along. Finally, I decided to really give it a go. I had just spent the weekend hosting author/illustrator Janet Stevens at a book conference and she and I had had some great discussions. After dropping her off at the airport, I was stuck in traffic and a little idea started. I grabbed the back of my name tag and a ballpoint pen from the dash and scribbled a few words down on the back (don’t worry…traffic was completely at a stand still). The words I wrote were, “Groundhog. Scratch my back. Tickle. Tingle. Twitch. Itch. Porcupine. Alligator. Thistle.” From those few words came my first book, “Tickle, Tickle! Itch, Twitch!” Of course I say that like it was simple, when it wasn’t. But it all began there.

groundhog idea

Was it hard to get an agent ? Can you talk us through the process?

I actually went out on my own without an agent for the first 9 years of my career. Since I was an illustrator and a mom to young kids, I took the route of finding my own work and managing the flow of it without the worry of disappointing an agent when I needed to turn a job down to spend time with my little ones. However, I finally came to the realization that an agent could actually HELP me spend more time with my family by taking all of the busy work off my plate. Then I could focus on my art. I began with an art rep who illustrator friends of mine used instead of a literary agent because at the time I wasn’t as focused on the writing aspect of picture books. I submitted my work to them and they took me in as one of their own. I was able to work on books but a lot of other interesting projects for various industries as well. However, after 5 more years in the industry and one book authored under my belt, I finally realized that creating an entire book is what I NEEDED to keep doing. My art rep was having a bit of a hard time helping me in that goal since their focus was primarily on the art and not the writing. I was explaining this to a literary agent, who I’d met a year previously at a conference, while we chatted at another event. After our talk that night, I realized that it was time to make a change in my focus and in my career. It was very scary for me to give up my art rep who I got along well with and move to a literary rep, but I knew it was the right thing to do. That literary agent I chatted with and subsequently signed on with was John Cusick, of Greenhouse Literary Agency. I am so excited to work with him and the Greenhouse team and take the leap of faith into my dreams.

p12-1Describe your writing/illustrating day. Where do you work? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?

As a mom, and an artist, it’s hard for me to keep set hours. I work when the kids sleep. I work when the kids are at school. I work when I’m at the dentist. I work while I’m at the park. I even work while I’m in the car. Whenever I find a free and quiet moment, I think books. I think art. I think stories. However, when I’m on a deadline, I work out some childcare help to get some good solid painting time in. I’m lucky that both of my kids’ grandmothers live close enough to help out when I’m in a pinch. But truthfully, a lot of my work happens with kids in my office painting at their little mini desk, banging on the piano or electric guitars upstairs and downstairs, or not so quietly reminding me they need to be fed. I am lucky to have an art studio in my home so I don’t have to go far. And I think growing up in a big family (9 kids and two parents) allowed me to be able to work amongst noise and craziness when I need to. Honestly, I think these kids are my greatest inspiration…life with them provides all sorts of ideas.

Can you tell us about your next book?

I currently have two books I’m working on. One is silly and the other is completely the opposite, serious and emotional. Both are picture books. I really hope they find a home and get to provide more laughter and love in the world.

Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers/illustrators who are looking to get published?

The best advice I have is to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE your craft. Go to writing and illustrating workshops and conferences. Learn from professionals in the industry. Network there. READ  A LOT OF BOOKS in the genre you are interested in and then lots of books in general. Overall, take the advice, constructive criticism and tips you receive from editors and professionals and put them to use. Let them build your work into something better instead of allowing it to tear you down personally.

Which favorite authors/illustrators would you invite to a dinner party? What fictional character do you wish you’d invented?

Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight (because I would love to witness and learn from their friendship), David Small and Sarah Stewart (because they are one of the sweetest couples I know…true opposites attracting), and Aaron Becker, Dan Santat, Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen (to keep the blood young, hip and hilarious) — The whole dinner I would soak up all I could from these amazing artist in word and sight

I wish I’d invented Eloise. Because she’s got such spunk and truly speaks to my own inner sassy know-it-all child. However, I don’t know that I was ever that spoiled (actually I know I wasn’t…there were 9 kids in my family, remember?)

Check out Julie’s picture books at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Indiebound. You can also follow Julie, and add her work on Goodreads too!

BTW if you yourself are an author/illustrator or illustrator, I highly recommend you check out Julie’s blog for all kinds of great resources.

Help Keep an Indie Magazine Thriving

imagesArmchair/Shotgun, as you may know, is a blind-submission, print-only literary magazine. A/S publishes fiction, poetry, and beautiful artwork, thanks in large part to the efforts of the unpaid staff (all of whom have demanding day jobs). Full disclosure- I co-founded this magazine and was a managing editor for years. But I think I can say impartially that A/S publishes amazing material, and does great things for independent literature in Brooklyn and beyond, not only by creating a venue for new voices, but by reaching out and helping to build a literary community through events like the Brooklyn Book Festival and LitCrawl.

Looking forward to the next five years, A/S has big plans, including nonprofit status, subscriptions, and expanding to new cities, but the magazine needs your help to get there. That’s why A/S has launched an IndieGoGO campaign.

The world of independent publishing ain’t easy, as many of you know, and while many “independent” magazines thrive with angel donations from large corporations such as Amazon, A/S is turning to you fine folks– the lovers of amazing writing from new and established authors– to help independent publishing continue to thrive.

What Your Support Helps Pay For:

  • Printing Issue 5, featuring the stories and poetry of Woodlief Thomas, Devin Kelly, Rob Adams McKean, Patricia Murphy, Juan Ramirez and more, plus brilliant color to show off the art of Avery McCarthy and Dan-ah Kim
  • Shipping costs to help us reach new audiences
  • Fees to aid the transition to nonprofit status for long-term fiscal health

So please, if you have a few extra bucks, kick it over to the A/S IndieGoGo campaign. A small contribution really goes a long way. And if you’re in the Brooklyn area, come out to the Greenlight Bookstore Indie Party this evening and raise a glass with us, and/or stop by the Armchair/Shotgun table this Sunday at the Brooklyn Book Festival to say hello, buy one of our rad t-shirts and try out our nifty typewriters.

Thanks!