The Children’s Door

“One may enter the literary parlor via just about any door, be it the prison door, the madhouse door, or the brothel door. There is but one door one may not enter it through, which is the nursery door. The critics will never forgive you such. The great Rudyard Kipling is one to have suffered this. I keep wondering to myself what this peculiar contempt towards anything related to childhood is all about.” Michael Ende

Have you ever gotten that look while you’re reading a children’s book? That slight smirk, almost a sneer, that says, “Haven’t you graduated to grown-up books yet?” I’ve gotten it enough that it’s become more entertaining than annoying, but there are still days that I have to roll my eyes.

To me, “children’s” books—and I’m including here YA, MG, and early chapter books—are where the magic happens. Those are the books that showed me that words are more than just letters. They’re ideas, adventures, history, feelings, anything a person wants them to be. I remember solving mysteries with the Boxcar Children, understanding and appreciating different cultures in Redwall Abbey and Mossflower Woods, and pondering whether the Giver should be the only one to bear the weight of history. I remember reading “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry and starting for the first time to grasp the horrors of the Holocaust.

Those are the books that shaped me and continue to shape me. Those books represent hope, the power to become whomever you want to be, to overcome whatever weights the world may place on your shoulders.

And that is why I write for younger readers—in the hopes that I can help them believe that they can be something great, something beyond the ordinary, as so many authors have done for me.

Have you ever gotten that “Look” when telling people what books you enjoy or what genre you write? Why do you write what you do?

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Memorial Day Heroes

When I was twenty years old, I ate lunch at a table filled with men in their eighties and nineties. The man beside me could hear very little, spoke much too loud, and sprayed like a fire hose with every word—and he was one of the most charming men I have ever met, still possessing all the suavity of the brash young airman he had once been. The man across from me could hear even less, but he sat quietly for the most part, his sweet wife taking up his part in the conversation. Down the table a little ways were a group of veterans who talked and laughed as boisterously as if they were sitting in a mess hall instead of a country club.

They spoke of brave friends they had lost and brave enemies they had fought. They reminisced fondly of the Tuskegee Airmen, the fanciest-flying guardian angels they had ever met. They told stories of landing a helicopter in the river to wash blood from the floor, then coming up with a farfetched explanation for their superiors as to why there were fish in the flooded floor compartments.

I spent six months transcribing these men’s oral histories, along with many other World War II veterans. Of all the stories I have read in my life, few have impacted me as powerfully as theirs. Too often in school, we spend all our time learning about dates and names of battlefields and which country was allied with which others—but we forget the men and women who did impossibly brave things without thinking twice because that was simply what was required of them.

Never forget. Never forget the sacrifices they made. Never forget why they fought, what they were willing to give their lives for. Remember, and be grateful for the blessings of freedom and opportunity that we so often take for granted.

Altered Perceptions

Hello again, dear blog friends. Just a quick post today to make you aware of a great opportunity to support a fellow writer, help create a foundation for authors with mental illness, and receive an anthology of short stories by some truly fabulous authors such as Shannon Hale, Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Brandon Mull, and more. The Altered Perceptions campaign ends on May 24th—check out the details on the Indiegogo page.

Fail with Glory!

Here’s the deal: it’s hard to stay focused in church when you have a squirming six-month-old who just wants to grab your nose or rip pages out of the hymnbook or other such painfully adorable baby activities. So I wasn’t really paying much attention to the closing hymn until the end of the second verse, when I hit the words “If we fail, we fail with glory.”

And the first thing I thought of was all my bloggy and writerly friends, and our constant discussion of how gut-wrenchingly terrifying it is to put our work out for others to read and critique and reject. And how unavoidable failure seems in a profession where you have to plaster a wall with rejection letters before you get that golden letter, the possibility that someone might like your book enough to publish it. And how even once your book is out there, you have to face the inevitable disgruntled readers who didn’t like this or that or the other about your book.

But I, for one, would rather fail while putting myself out there and working for success than fail because I didn’t ever try.

So put away your fear of failure and take on the mindset that if you fail, you’ll fail with glory. After all, failure is only the end if you don’t pick yourself up and try again. Go after your life’s dreams, “Patient, firm, and persevering . . . no event nor danger fearing . . . pains, nor toils, nor trials heeding, and in heav’n’s good time succeeding.” (God Speed the Right)

Liebster Award!

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Cathy from Drowning in Rough Drafts nominated me for the Liebster Award! I feel loved. And, come on, the name of the award is German. How could I refuse?

So here’s the deal:

  • The nominated person must link back to the person that nominated them.
  • Provide 11 facts about yourself
  • Answer 11 questions set by the person who nominated you
  • Choose 11 more people (with under 200 followers) and ask them 11 questions

I feel a little goofy doing all the “about me” stuff, but here goes:

1. I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
2. I have a baby girl who looks kind of like this:
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Seriously, I’m sometimes tempted to see if her hair glows when I sing.
3. I’m an avid Doctor Who fan. David Tennant is my Doctor, but my favorite classic Doctor is Peter Davison.
4. I love music. I play the piano and have dabbled in clarinet, trumpet, and guitar.
5. I love tennis and am a major Roger Federer fan.
6. Christmas music is fair game all year round in my house.
7. Peach orchards and rice fields are two of my favorite smells in the world.
8. I majored in German Linguistics and spent a summer in Berlin. I miss Germany like crazy.
9. Charles Dickens is one of my favorite authors.
10. It makes me a little crazy how many times the word “I” appears in this list.
11. The last word added to my list of fun words is “quidnunc,” which is a nosey person, from the Latin for “what now?” (Thanks to Literary Interest!)

And Cathy’s questions:

1. Describe one interesting physical feature about yourself.
Double-jointed thumbs. I dominate at thumb wars.

2. What’s your favourite colour?
Blue, green, purple, red, yellow. In that order.

3. Who’s your favourite actor/actress?
Probably Benedict Cumberbatch. Seriously–prime minister, Sherlock, dragon, Khan. What’s not to love?

4. Most overrated thing on this planet? (It can be ANYTHING!)
4. Oh dear. Pretty much anything you see in the headlines that involves a celebrity.

5. If there was one thing about yourself you could change, what would it be?  Physical or psychological.
Two more arms. Seriously, getting things done with a baby would be so much easier.

6. How was your day?
Fantastic! I heard from a good friend, broke through a wall on my story, and enjoyed the sunshine with my beautiful baby girl.

7. What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Celebrity gossip. Seriously, people, who cares?!

8. Alright: iPhone or Android?
Neither, actually. I’m fairly low-tech. But in theory, I would probably go with Android.

9. Name 10 positive facts about someone you really detest.
I don’t know that I really detest anyone. Except maybe Professor Umbridge? Do I really have to come up with positive things about her?

10. What’s your favourite dessert?
Chocolate. Pretty much any kind of chocolate, though Happy Hippos are the most entertaining variety.

11. 5 facts you dislike about yourself and 5 facts you love about yourself.
I’m gonna cheat and only answer the second half of this question.
a. I know the difference between a hyphen, en dash, and em dash.
b. I’m a mom.
c. I can read Cornelia Funke’s novels in the original German.
d. I can sing along to a ridiculous number of musicals word-for-word, and I’m okay with that.
e. I’m a writer!

So as it turns out, I’m pretty lame and don’t follow nearly enough up-and-coming blogs. But here are my nominees:

 An Adventure Every Day
Inkcouragement
Megan O’Russell
A. D. Scroggins
Breakfast with Words

The Long Road to Publishing

The magnificent T.K. has asked about how I got from scribbling out my manuscript to finding a publisher willing to polish and publish it. I started looking into getting published during my first semester of college, after I had finished a draft of a novel that really was not very good. I was completely baffled by terms like query letters, endless acronyms (YA, MG, PB, ARC, MS, and so on), and conflicting advice from a billion writers who insisted that their way was the only way to ever be published.

Well, that scared me off pretty effectively, and I went back to my secret writing. But as I took editing classes, creative writing classes, and other wonderful classes that introduced me to authors, illustrators, editors, and publishers of all shapes and sizes, I started to realize: no two publishing journeys are the same. Some go through conferences, some through acquaintances, some through agents, some through sheer dumb luck. Some suffer through years of rejection, some are lucky enough to find a publisher that clicks right away.

With that in mind, I decided to find my own way. Conferences are great, but they were out of my budget once I graduated and couldn’t get student discounts. So I checked out the 2013 Writer’s Market from the library and made a list of all the publishers and agents that dealt with my kind of books. Writer’s Market is a fantastic resource for aspiring authors; it contains hundreds upon hundreds of publishers and agents, organized by what kinds of books they publish, and gives a quick overview of what they’re looking for. I checked out the ones on my list online, scratched a few that didn’t look like they would be a good fit for me, and started preparing submissions for the remaining ones on the list.

But you know what the funny thing is? I didn’t end up with any of them. In the process of looking for publishers, I remembered that I had looked for some publishing companies to possibly intern with while getting my editing degree, and there was this company called Cedar Fort that looked like a great place with great people. I never actually applied for an internship there, but I thought, Why not? I’ll send my manuscript to them. They liked it, and here I am with a December 9th launch date.

Like I said, everyone has their own way. For some people, agents are a better way to go. I did query one agent and planned to query more, but didn’t end up needing to. Agents are great because they are well-connected in the publishing world and have a good understanding of which publishers would be a good fit for your book. They know the ins and outs of publishing, but aren’t necessary in order to get published. If you are interested in finding an agent, AgentQuery.com is a great resource. You can learn about agents from authors who have had interactions with them and get a better feel for which agent would be a good fit for you.

In the end, I think the best advice I could give to find a publisher is to get involved. Classes, conferences, critique groups—you never know where you’ll find your link to the perfect publisher. And it’s never too early to start attending conferences and critique groups, even if you don’t think you’re ready to leap into the world of publishing. I wish I’d started with those earlier; there are a ton of wonderful people to meet who will influence and improve your writing.

Those of you who are working with a publisher or agent, how did you find your match?