Saturday, May 29, 2010

Nice News!

My website,, has been named one of the "101 Best Websites for Writers" in the May/June issue of Writer's Digest! The full list isn't online, but it features some truly great sites, including Editorial Anonymous, InkyGirl, Nathan Bransford,, and the Purple Crayon, and I'm honored to be noted among them. Thanks for the recognition, Writers' Digest!

(And thanks, Mom, for texting me with the news. You sure you don't want a second career in book publicity?)

In other nice news, I learned this week that a couple met at our BEA Kidlit Drinks Night last year, fell in love shortly thereafter, and as of this year's (awesome) event, they're planning to move in together. As someone who loves connections -- between characters, between the right editor and the right writer, between the right reader and the right book -- I find this immensely delightful and satisfying. Hooray!

And because good things should always come in threes, let's see. . . . Ah! It's a three-day weekend! Go forth and be frivolous.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Last December, I was playing around with a flap copy idea, and I impulsively tossed a draft up on the blog to gauge reader reaction. Said reaction was resoundingly negative, so I tucked that idea away for the time being, but I thought you all might be interested in seeing the front flap copy that the author and I did decide to use. To wit:

I needed to save Daniel. That’s why I made the choices I did. I didn’t need the track scholarships I’d turned down or the futures they promised. I didn’t need for my mother and me to have some grand reconciliation. I didn’t even need Jeff Cedars to fall in love with me a second time. All I needed was for my kid brother to have a normal life, and I believed with all my heart that I knew the way to give it to him.

The only problem, as I came to find out, was that just believing something doesn’t make it true.

Daniel Grant is six years old. He builds Lego spaceships and sleeps with a nightlight. He loves turtle shells, comic books, and his big sister, Andi.

And he’s known as the “Miracle Boy” of Paradise, Pennsylvania. Not just because he survived a freak accident when he was a baby: No, Daniel is rumored to have the power to cure the sick, to call home lost souls, even to bring back the dead.

Andi Grant doesn’t know what to believe. Her brother may be a little different, but he surely isn’t a miracle worker. Yet more and more people come to Paradise to see him—reporters seeking a story, “Pilgrims” seeking hope. And when one of the seekers becomes a dangerous stalker, Andi knows one thing for sure: The madness around Daniel has to stop.

As her plan comes together, the stalker draws closer, and the clock ticks toward Daniel’s star appearance at Paradise Days, Andi finds herself wrestling with her own beliefs in God and her brother, and wondering if what she really needs is . . . a miracle.
The book is The Miracle Stealer, the second YA novel by the excellent Neil Connelly, whose debut, St. Michael's Scales, we published back in 2001. And while I no longer mention the first chapter on the flap, I stand by my praise of it as one of the most intense and jaw-dropping scenes you're likely to read in a YA novel this year, just as the book as a whole is really intense, funny, thoughtful, and twisty -- a sort of spiritual suspense thriller firmly anchored in these very real characters, especially the prickly and awesome Andi. If you liked Marcelo in the Real World, put this one on your list.

Jacket art by Chris Stengel. Out in October.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"The Journey," by Mary Oliver

(I did not know this poem before tonight, but then I saw it quoted on a friend's Facebook profile and Googled it, and my goodness . . . That series of connections shows why the Internet is great, and this shows why poetry is even better.)

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice--

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

"Mend my life!"

each voice cried.

But you didn't stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do--

determined to save

the only life you could save.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Video Sunday: Great Literary Love Songs

I love books, music, and romance, so here's a fun little video playlist of songs that celebrate all three things. And I'm always looking for more (or any song with "Book" in the title, really), so if you have one to suggest, please leave it in the comments.

Great doo-wop fun: "Who Wrote the Book of Love?" by the Monotones, performed here by Sha Na Na.

The first literary love song I ever knew, thanks to the "When Harry Met Sally . . ." soundtrack: "I Could Write a Book," music by Richard Rogers, lyrics by Lorenz Hart, performed here by Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak in the film of the musical in which it first appeared, "Pal Joey":

"Everyday I Write the Book," by Elvis Costello (thanks to my friend Ben for introducing me to this one):

I'm including this video because it seems like the result of a lot of teenage daydreaming about love as it's presented in books. . . . It's exactly the fantasy I would have had at age 15, after swooning over "Romeo and Juliet" in Honors English I and watching the Keira Knightley "Pride and Prejudice" two hundred times. And I'm also including it because, ah hell, I love this video now: "Love Story" by Taylor Swift:

But a much better and more honest song about love, and one of my all-time favorite songs, period, is "The Book of Love" by the Magnetic Fields, performed gorgeously here by Nataly Dawn:

And finally, to finish on a fun note, "My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors," by Moxy Fruvous:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Now in Paperback: An Absolutely Bobby Curse

Three paperback editions of books I edited came out this month -- and look how neatly alphabetical they are!

(her YA debut, and the book of the month at Readergirlz now)

(her chapter-book debut, with a faboo new paperback cover by Dan Santat)

A CURSE DARK AS GOLD by Elizabeth C. Bunce
(her everything debut -- and did I mention she won an award for it?)

Go read them, if you haven't already! Yay Lisa and Dan and Elizabeth! Yay books!

Monday, May 10, 2010


(Another guest blog from my dear friend and Scholastic Press Senior Editor Rachel Griffiths, who is entirely too modest about her editorial gifts in writing this post.)

"A charming little bonbon of a book.” That’s what Cheryl called My Invisible Boyfriend by Susie Day, a book I co-edited that just published on Scholastic’s Spring 2010 list. That’s it exactly, I thought, and spent so much time chattering to Cheryl about right she is, and how this book should be in everybody’s beach bag, and how it’s the kind of book that you read on the R train and embarrass yourself because you keep snorting with laughter and people look over worried about swine flu and other diseases you can catch on subways. I must have blathered a lot, because Cheryl offered once again to let me write a guest "Behind the Book."

Of course, what I really want to do is sit here and gush, because this is an adorable book – zippy, with awkwardness, wooing and a British boarding school completely full of glamorous misfits. But Cheryl’s Beyond the Books are so informative that even as an editor I learn something new each time. So this post is gushing plus information too – a case study in how to make a package that (I think) says "Pick Me Up, Please!"

One of the fun things about being an editor is that you get to work on all kinds of different projects. Right now, I’m editing The 39 Clues, a series about kids hopping around the world chasing a huge treasure; Kathryn Lasky’s new Wolves of the Beyond series about a wolf pup struggling to survive alone in the wild; a graphic novel about a superhero’s pets, and a host of others that I love. Cheryl and I, coming from the Arthur A. Levine School of editing, think about emotion first when we approach a book. The feelings a manuscript evoke are paramount for us.

And that’s how I approach a book’s package too. Each of the books on my list bring to mind a different mood. The little wolf story is deeply felt and written with profound respect for the natural world. And so the cover is realistic, a close up on a noble wolf alone in a vast wilderness. 39 Clues is full of action and danger, and so the covers are bright, vibrant, and with a lot of movement and motion lines.

My Invisible Boyfriend is like a great pop song, and I wanted that flavor. Figuring out how to get a mood expressed as an image is beyond me, and my good luck here is that we have a great design team -- in this case Elizabeth Parisi and Becky Terhune. I asked them for a juicy cover, full of energy and a bit of humor, which would reflect how funny and awkward the book is. I also wanted a cover that would stand out on shelves. The YA section is currently overflowing with pale girls looking miserable and slightly ill (seriously, don’t vampires ever eat healthy people?), and this book is firmly YA, but has nothing paranormal about it. It’s outside the pack, and I wanted it to have that look – a splash of color in a sea of black. (Sometimes you advertise that you are different, and sometimes you want to make your book fit in. It depends on the book and your guess at the market. This book bucks the market trend, but I’m gambling here that some girls who like romance might be ready for a break from the supernatural.)

My first thought to get the book attention was to do a paper-over-board die-cut. I wanted the silhouette of a hot boy cut out of the board of the book, and no traditional jacket. But we tried a few covers like that, and nothing really popped. The cover looked like a gimmick and conveyed nothing of the flavor of the book. Then Becky came back to Elizabeth and me with a photo she’d found of a bunch of kids on a couch. What if we silhouetted one, she asked? The book has such a great ensemble cast, and the kids on the couch looked full of mischief and fun. The concept was perfect.

Unfortunately, the photo wasn’t. Occasionally our designers find a stock image that’s exactly right for a book, but in this case it was clear that we needed a photo shoot. So together, the designers and I picked models. We wanted attractive teens, but no one glamazon – we wanted to give readers the feeling that they could hop on the couch on the cover without anyone sniffing at them. So we cast our main character first, and then found others to fill in. (The photo shoot was a blast, by the way. There were five good-looking teenagers told to pretend to make out on a couch. The guys were flirting outrageously, and the couple on the right of the front cover ended up exchanging emails.)

So the cover was done, and now up to bat was the next part of the package – the flap copy. It was killing me. The list of cool things I wanted to convey was clear to me:

  1. The book has a very fun plot, in which the main character invents a boyfriend to gain acceptance from her friend. The neat thing is that Susie takes it farther than most books – her main character creates an Internet profile for her boyfriend, and her friends start writing to him.
  2. The book has a fabulous, fluttery love story and there is lots of romantic angst that gets resolved in a very satisfying way.
  3. It’s hilarious. (Reference the aforementioned subway snorting.)
But the author is endlessly inventive with language, making great daisy chains out of words, coming up with hilarious nicknames (Tarty McSlutcakes for an enemy of the main character), and playing a lot with Internet jargon. Susie is young and works in a boarding school near Oxford, and she has an ear for the language of the teens around her. I wanted to convey that in the flap copy, but I don’t have that voice at all, nor that knowledge – I recently had to ask my baby sister what LMAO meant. But my assistant, Mallory Kass, came to Scholastic straight from getting her master's at Oxford (I know. How lucky am I?). She had the British tone, she’s fully up to date on all things Internet-related, and she cracks all of us up all the time. So we wrote the flap copy together, tossing it back and forth until it worked, Mallory providing the clever bits.
Heidi has the perfect solution to her popularity problems – a fake boyfriend. She’s even made him a real-life Internet profile that makes him look like a motorcycle-wearing bad boy who reads poetry for fun. *swoon* Heidi’s friends are impressed. So impressed they start e-mailing Heidi’s fake boyfriend for advice about their own problems. Including their problems with, um . . . Heidi.

As if that weren’t bad enough, a mysterious, rather delicious and possibly single person who calls himself “A Real Boy” e-mails Heidi to say he knows the truth. Can Heidi escape from her (worldwide) web of lies before it’s too late? Or will her chance at real romance disappear faster than you can type gtg?

There’s only one thing that’s certain: A fake boyfriend causes a lot of real problems.
To me, the result is a book package that announces the story within as the delicious treat it is. I hope we did justice to the deeply charming cast of characters Susie created, and more, I hope that it will catch teen eyes and make teen hands itch to grab it.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

A Blast from the Past; or, Desperately Seeking Melissa W.'s Pants

Back in the summer of 2006, I shared a list that still makes me giggle madly: "Lines from 'Star Wars' That Can Be Improved by Substituting 'Pants' for Key Words." A genius reader named Melissa W. applied the principle to selected quotes from Pride and Prejudice in the comments on that post, with equally hilarious results. However! In the years since, Blogger has apparently gone through and deleted nearly all comments on this blog prior to October 4, 2006, which means her work of brilliance has been lost. Melissa W., if you're out there and you still have that list, might you repost it here? My pants and I would appreciate it.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Quote File: Proverbs

Thanks to this fabulous quotation on today's A.Word.A.Day, I at first thought the theme of this Quote File would be "Parts of Speech," featuring quotes with the words "noun," "verb," "adjective," etc. Alas, the people whose quotations I collect have been mysteriously silent on the subject. But searching my actual, digital, one-hundred-plus-page Quotations File for the word "verb" brought me to these multiple wonderful proverbs, and voila, a different theme was born:

A proverb is a short sentence based on long experience. -- Miguel de Cervantes

The fly cannot be driven away by getting angry at it. -- African proverb

If there’s no enemy within, the enemy without can do you no harm. -- 
African proverb

A closed mind is like a closed book: just a block of wood. -- Chinese proverb

A diamond with a flaw is better than a common stone that is perfect. -- Chinese proverb

The man who strikes first admits that his ideas have given out. – Chinese proverb

A beautiful thing is never perfect. -- Egyptian proverb

Good deeds are the best prayer. -- Serbian proverb

No matter how far you have gone on the wrong road, turn back. -- Turkish proverb

A man is not old until his regrets take the place of dreams. -- Yiddish proverb

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. -- Zen Buddhist proverb