Tu Books

#DVPitLive Video: On Pitches, Rep, and #OwnVoices

Last night I got to participate in this live stream for #DVPit along with Stacy Whitman, Publisher of Tu Books, and fellow-agent Quressa Robinson, hosted by the brilliant author Claribel Ortega. We answer questions about pitches, representation, #ownvoices, and all sorts of cool publishing stuff.

As you watch, appreciate the fact that my cat is just off-screen trying to climb in my lap, and my awesome wife is ten feet away making a dinner that smells so good you can practically see me drooling. Thanks to Beth Phelan and the #DVPit crew for having me!

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Congratulations Valynne Maetani, ALA Honor Winner!

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Huge congratulations to the absurdly talented Valynne Maetani whose debut YA INK AND ASHES has won the ALA Asian/Pacific American Honor Award for Youth Literature!

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

Check out Valynne Maetani on her website and twitter.

 

Congrats to Christian Heidicker on His Debut Deal!

A big power-up high five to Christian Heidicker, whose debut y.a. just sold to Simon & Schuster! From Publishers Weekly:

29145-1Christian Trimmer at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers has bought debut author Christian Heidicker‘s YA novel, Miles in the Infinite Sandbox. Told in “censored” blog posts, the novel follows basement-dweller Miles after he is sent to video game rehab, and touches on issues of pop culture, sexism, and human connection. Publication is slated for summer 2016; John M. Cusick at Greenhouse Literary brokered the deal for world rights.

(You read that right. Christian’s editor is also named Christian. No, that’s not going to get confusing at all.)

When and how did you start writing?

Christian: I was cleaning a deep fat fryer. It was one of those crappy fast food jobs you get in college so you can afford to buy crappy fast food.

While the charred gloop of a thousand dead French fries splatted out into the bucket, images kept popping into my head of a small girl wandering into a forest with a plastic crown and a stuffed gorilla. I had to keep snapping off my rubber gloves to scribble notes on a pizza order sheet. Hold on to your crappy jobs, kids. They can inspire miracles.

IMG_3692Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?

Matilda is the first book I can remember finishing and then starting right back over again. I loved Matilda’s power over her teachers and parents. Being an only child with a New Age mother who healed my cuts with white light instead of Band-Aids, I’d always had a problem with authority figures. In fact, who are you? Why are you asking me these questions?

My childhood storytelling heroes were C.S. Lewis, Beatrix Potter, A.A.

Milne, Shel Silverstein, Maurice Sendak, and Brian Jacques . . . But everyone knows about them. You’re here for the goods. The work that turned me into a storyteller has to be Jim Henson’s Storyteller. The Soldier and Death episode specifically. Oh, look! It’s on YouTube! You lucky devils: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvsnV0yNddc If you don’t like the crappy eighties special effects, don’t tell me.

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

Someone else got my agent for me. Valynne E. Maetani* and I co-wrote a book about kids that used to eat brains together. (Not really though, it was hamburger.) We worked really hard on it, and when we were finished, Valynne threw on a Safari hat, grabbed a harpoon, and set off into the publishing wilderness. Eight days later, she returned bloodied and sweaty and covered in bruises. She had a lavender sack slung over her shoulder with a man-sized object struggling and screaming inside.

“I have good news,” she said, and poured John M. Cusick out onto the floor.

I highly recommend this approach.

10689931_10152987842073888_9040703992534659725_nDescribe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?

I wake up between the hours of 7 and 11 a.m. (That’s not a joke.) I don’t care where I write so long as I’m standing. People may give me funny looks at coffee shops, but I feel like hell if I sit for too long, and how else am I supposed to break into interpretive dance if I’m super excited about an idea?

When it comes to organizing time, I’m my own Nurse Ratched. I don’t let myself do things like eat or read or go out on the town until I finish an assignment or a chapter. Right now, I’m eyeballing a cup of tea and a book on the history of Scientology.

I pull inspiration from EVERYWHERE. I believe in the Ray Bradbury reading diet. I read picture books, comic books, books on science and history, the news, classics, music lyrics, anything. Lately, however, I’ve found that just listening to how people speak is crazy valuable.

The other day, I was putting on a puppet play for kindergartners. One of the little girls raised her hand and said, “I don’t know what’s a puppet.” I couldn’t make up that kind of cuteness if I tried.

Can you tell us about your next book?

It’s about a kid who’s committed to video game rehab. Or, if you want to get more specific, it’s about a kid who gets the first date of his life only to be committed to video game rehab where he must earn one million points by learning real-life skills in order to be released and make it back to his date.

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

YES. Read outside of your genre. The most famous creators out there bring something new to the table. Just look at sci-fi and fantasy.

J.R.R. Tolkien studied language. J.K. Rowling studied mysteries.

George R.R. Martin studied world history. George Lucas studied Akira Kurasawa films. C.S. Lewis studied theology. Of course you should read a bit in your genre to get a feel for what’s out there . . . but I’d like to see the Young Adult romance by someone who studied corn pollination or something . . .

1958461_10152470253823888_2118769219_nCan you describe three aspects of writing craft that have been most important as you’ve developed as an author?

1.     Learn how to finish things. You learn more by finishing and sharing your stuff than by doing anything else. (I’m hoping to reach Nirvana at the end of this questionnaire.) If someone can look at one your work as a whole, they can point out your weaknesses and strengths. Keep a tough skin and pay attention to how they really feel about it.

2.     Give yourself permission to completely screw it up the first

time. It’s super intimidating to approach a blank page, difficult chapter, or even a questionnaire. I’ve found that if I remind myself no one’s going to read the first draft, I can take big sloppy risks and throw in whatever jaunty crabjectives I spoon like.

3.     Start working on the next thing. Writing stings. Sharing

writing stings. Having that writing rejected over and over and over* again stings. BUT if you start working on a new project as soon as the first one is finished, then you won’t think about that poor first manuscript being blown to smithereens and tumbling down to the earth as a papery carcass. Also, you can mentally tell whoever rejected it that you’ve got something WAY better on the way. In fact, I think I’ll go start another questionnaire right now.

*and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over

This is a tricky question because I think the most brilliant writers were kind of . . . well, a-holes. Salinger was a hermit. Truman Capote was in love with himself. Roald Dahl hit his wife apparently. I’m not feeding that guy dinner. So here’s my list of people whose writing I greatly admire and would actually like to hang out with:

The Living:

Toni Morrison

Alan Moore (tolerably grumpy)

Ursula K. LeGuin

Kate DiCamillo

Sherman Alexie

And FINE, Neil Gaiman, you can come. (Ug. I feel like I’m inviting the prom king that everyone’s in love with. Although . . . he is pretty handsome. Er, good at writing.)

The Dead:

Maurice Sendak (charmingly grumpy)

Ray Bradbury

David Foster Wallace

Joseph Campbell

John Steinbeck

Kurt Vonnegut

(Whoa there, all white men.)

A character I wish I’d invented?! Ooh, that’s a good question.

Matilda, The Storyteller, and Swamp Thing all jump to mind . . . But then I wouldn’t have been able to experience them as a reader. So I’ll say . . . L. Ron Hubbard. Imagine a character who could brainwash tens of thousands with a simple sci-fi story . . . WHAT? That guy’s real? I still wish I invented him.

* Valynne’s amazing debut, INK AND ASHES, is coming from Tu Books in Spring 2015. Watch for it! Also Valynne is amazing and you should follow her and check out her websites. Add INK AND ASHES on Goodreads. – JMC