Greetings, people of the blogosphere! Salutations, citizens of the land of keyboard-induced repetitive motion injuries! Hola, amigos! Yes, yes, it’s been a while, and I’m won’t bludgeon you into senselessness with an overly long blog post now (ETA: I TOTALLY LIED ABOUT NOT WRITING A LONG POST) – my son’s with his mother in the other room, weeping, so I’m on red alert – but seriously, if there’s ever a day when I’m gonna at least make a sloppy, token effort to blog it should be this day. And if you’re even remotely connected to my online presence in other venues you probably know already that I have a book deal! I’m gonna be published! Wahoo! And you probably already know who’s gonna publish my book – in typical fashion, I’ve given it away in the picture that’s at the top of this post. Even so, just humor me a bit, will ya? Pretend you don’t know, if you’re willing. OH COME ON, JUST DO IT. Go back into the wavering mists of time with me…
I first got the impetus to write children’s books back in the mid-to-late 90s, when I was working as a preschool teacher. So of course I was reading a ton of picture books, and that was what I originally thought about writing! (I still plan on doing that one of these days, just so you know.) One of the PBs that I remembered most clearly from those days, and which I eventually bought a copy of for my own kids, was Peggy Rathmann’s OFFICER BUCKLE AND GLORIA. A nearly perfect marriage of text and imagery, neh? The kids asked for it over and over, and that was one of my first real moments of clarity around how wonderful and persistent the experience of reading a picture book could be.
A couple of years later I, like so many people, read the book that was almost certainly the biggest game-changer of all time, the book that altered everything. I’m talking about HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE, of course. I remember one day when I saw people reading the book in three different places – a twentysomething-looking woman on the BART train, a college student working the information desk at the California College of Arts, and an older man at a table in a coffeeshop. Adults, all of ’em! It spurred thoughts about that whole silly “why are you reading that kid’s book blah blah blah” thing, and my own college-age experience reading DRAGONSONG, as I’ve previously blogged about.
A few years after that (and mind you, I still hadn’t done ANYTHING to pursue this “writing for children” dream, it was still just a dream), I read a book that upended the foundations of my psychological reality in a whole new way. That book, which may be an even greater influence of my writerly self than HP, was MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS by Lisa Yee, which in many ways is still the middle-grade fiction champ in my mind. Uproarious, laugh-out-loud humor, combined with a deep well of loneliness and alienation, with Asian characters, but a story that wasn’t about them being Asian, written by an author who didn’t get published until she was in her forties, an author who wrote several entirely new drafts of her book, an author who revised for six freaking years, an author who blogs, and puts pictures of her editor on her blog…
What Lisa Yee did with MILLICENT MIN was change my perceptions in a different way – not of what a children’s book could be, but of what (and who) a children’s author could be. And of course her blog gave me my first glimpse of the person who’d eventually become my editor.
The common thread shared by all three of these books? They were edited by the same guy, of course.
I first saw Arthur Levine speak in person a number of years later, after I’d finally, finally, finally started to pursue a kidlit career in earnest – he gave a keynote on the invincible resiliency of the picture book at SCBWILA08, which was a watershed event for me in many ways. Then I finally met Arthur in-an-actual-talking-to-a-person kinda way at SCBWILA10, when I took his master class on writing strong emotions. And I was unsurprisingly floored by his editorial acumen – he took the class’s writing samples, neatly flayed them open, and held each word and phrase up to the light, pointing out its frailties or strengths, defining its role within the greater organism of our stories. I was sold.
So, here it is! I have the green light to officially and publicly announce that my debut MG novel, GEEKS, GIRLS AND SECRET IDENTITIES, will be published by Arthur A. Levine Books! Even more exciting, Arthur himself will by my editor. Yes. ARTHUR #$%&ING LEVINE IS MY EDITOR!!!!!!
Holy cow. It’s hard to overstate how dazzled I am by the opportunity to join a cadre of such incredible authors and illustrators, or to work with one of the true giants of the industry – yes, I’ve been obsessively plowing through the AALB catalog, and the stellar quality of these books continuously knocks me over. I’m grateful to so many people! My agent, the fabulous Ammi-Joan Paquette! Everyone at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency! My compadres on the Blueboards! And of course Arthur himself. I’ve been told over and over that Arthur is a wonderful human being, and yo babies, he lives up to the billing. I think he’s gonna make me work harder than I’ve ever worked at my writing before, but hey, bring it on! BRING THE ROCK. Because I also think that Arthur’s editorial genius will spur me to produce absolutely the best book that I’m capable of creating.
I am very, very happy, my friends. I can not fully express the depths of my happiness. And I’m about to use a terrible cliche, something I’m sure Arthur won’t let me get away with, but hey, this is just a blog post, and cliches become cliches in the first place because initially at least they contained some powerful nugget of truth about the human condition, right? So I hope you’ll forgive my lapse into hackneyed copy, folks. Because I say this with every drop of sincerity in my possession – this is a dream come true.