ETA: The Fall 2015 YA Scavenger Hunt is over! So the special content is gone, but you can check out the winners here: http://www.yash.rocks/
Congratulations to Ileana A. who won the extra CHANTRESS giveaway!
A package from New York City is headed my way! And I know what’s in it: an editorial letter for Chantress Alchemy, along with the marked-up manuscript.
These days lots of editors work only with electronic files, but my editor still works on paper. I appreciate that — somehow it’s easier for me to see the big picture that way — but it means the documents can’t get zapped to me in an instant over the net. Instead the package has to cross the Atlantic. And until it gets here, I won’t know how much work Chantress Alchemy needs.
It’s kind of like waiting for a blizzard to hit. A bit exciting, a bit frightening. Snow can be magical — but what if the power goes down? What if you’re digging out for days? You think about these things while you stock up on food, and bring in extra wood for the stove, and make sure the shovels and the sand are handy…
(Can you tell I grew up in snow country?)
Like that blizzard-watcher, I’m careening around the house today, trying to get everything in order before the storm hits. There are letters to answer, tax docs to finish, chocolate (in massive amounts) to be bought.
In the midst of all the bustle, I stop every now and again, thinking about that package and wondering what will be asked of me. And I try to find that part of myself that is brave and resolute. The part that whispers, “You can do this.”
I'm so happy to finally be able to share the beautiful cover of Chantress! The lovely Hafsah of Icey Books is hosting the official cover reveal at her blog. You can see the cover in its full glory there — where it's pretty much life-sized — and you can also enter to win an international giveaway of a Chantress ARC (Advance Reader Copy).
I'm also putting a smaller version of the cover below. Sigh. Isn't it beautiful?!
I'm hugely grateful to everyone at Simon and Schuster and McElderry Books who helped bring this cover to life, and particularly to the art director behind it, Michael McCartney.
This has been the busiest summer I can remember, a whirligig of days and hours that’s had me racing to keep up. But now the whirligig is spinning to a close, and I see that despite all the commotion, it’s been a beautiful season.
Here are some writing things I’m thankful for:
The page proofs for Chantress are done! (I always lose my mind over page proofs, and it’s good to have it back.)
The cover is beautiful and I’ll get to reveal it soon!
But as I sit here tonight, watching the summer night draw in, it’s the non-writing things from this summer that have the closest hold on my heart:
A joyful family wedding with music that still sings in my head
Seeing my whole family for the first time in over 2 1/2 years
Sweetpea learning to swim
Quiet nights stargazing in the backyard, marveling at the Milky Way
The hedgehog who snuffles through our garden on occasional evening wanderings
Dear friends who came thousands of miles to see us
The roses that have bloomed all summer long
What stands out about your summer? I’d love to hear.
Ducking out of the revision cave to say that I have a post up on the Enchanted Inkpot today about Joan Aiken and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.
I’ve loved this book since I was small, and I’m amazed how much I learned by looking at it with a writer’s eye. The book’s backstory is thought-provoking, too. It took ten years from the start of the book to publication, and Joan Aiken had to persevere through terrible loss and some really bad luck to get there. I’m glad she did.
As China Miéville says of Aiken’s books, “If that kind of writing hits you at the right time when you’re a child, the impact is like nothing else ever.”
You can read the whole Inkpot essay here.
I hope to be back soon with a few thoughts on revision and some fun photos of summer!
This has been a busy month, bookwise. I’ve just turned in the copyedits – hooray! And the flap copy is just about ready to go. It’s almost another year before the book comes out – April 2013 – but publication feels more real with every passing month.
And that means I’m having to re-learn a central truth of the author’s life: While it’s a joyful thing to have a book published, it’s a scary one, too. And I suspect there’s no cure for that, since part of what makes it so joyful (people will read my book!) is also what makes it so scary (people will read my book!).
Already I’m having to do some fancy mental gymnastics to keep myself in a good place for writing book two. I’m all too capable of lugging a thousand potential critics in my head as I write. Readers, reviews, editor, author, family… it can feel like they’re all looking over my shoulder as I type.
So I’m thinking a lot about these lines***:
Dance like no one’s watching.
Sing like no one’s listening.
And I’m adding one more:
Write like no one’s in the room.
***The net credits the lines to Mark Twain, William Purkey, and Aurora Greenway, but that’s the net for you. Whoever wrote them, I think they’re great.
It’s been one of the wettest Aprils in English history – the soggiest in over a century. But at least I can attest to the truth of that old saying: April showers really do bring May flowers.
Our family missed some of the sogginess because we spent much of April traveling in America, where it was so hot I had to go shopping for sundresses. As always, it was wonderful to see friends and family. I even zipped down to New York to meet my editor and agent face-to-face for the first time, which was great fun. But the super-busy busy schedule had our whole family pretty tired by the end… and then I got food poisoning. So lesson learned: The next trip will be shorter and slower-paced. (Dear friends, if I don’t get to see you next time, it isn’t because I don’t miss you! Write a letter, give me a call – we’ll find other ways to bridge the distance.)
My suitcases are unpacked now, and it’s a joy to be home. And those May flowers are one reason why:
My Snake’s Head Fritillaries, aka Checkered Daffodils, Chess Flowers, Frog-cups, Guinea-hen Flowers, Leper Lilies, Lazarus Bells, and Checkered Lilies. They love all the rain we’ve been getting
The Angelique tulips were just coming into bloom when I came home
This clematis brightens our kitchen sink window.
Even the greenery is radiant.
Daffodils in the neighborhood
I’ve been a little mad about daffodils this year, I confess… but truly, how could anyone resist these?
I grew up in the Adirondack Mountains, where it was too chilly on May 1st for most flowers to bloom, so the bounty here is a continual astonishment and delight to me. Of course the weeds grow, too – I started hoeing them down yesterday – but I’ll happily pay that price for flowers like these.
Happy May, everyone!
My word for this year is GROW, and that means doing some things I thought were beyond me. I did one of them last week: my first writing retreat.
I’ve always wanted to go on a writing retreat, but until now it never worked out. Sometimes money was the problem, sometimes health, sometimes family circumstances… sometimes all three.
Mostly I’ve been resigned to this; I have bad retreat karma, and that’s that. But when I heard that Kindling Words was holding a retreat here in the UK in March 2012, I desperately wanted to go, especially since some very dear friends were going to be there, friends I rarely get to see.
I just didn’t see how I could make it work.
Last fall, when we were supposed to sign up, I was going through a lupus flare. These happen sometimes, and I just grit my teeth and get through them, but this one was bad enough that my doctors decided it was time to try a new treatment… and the treatment just wasn’t working.
But then, in mid-February, I finally started to see some results. It’s not a cure (those are really, really rare with lupus), but the pain finally started to recede.
Unfortunately, the improvement had come too late for the retreat. Or so I thought. But then out of the blue, lovely Alison James of Kindling Words wrote again, just before the retreat began, urging me to come just for the weekend if I could; she said they would find space for me. I pieced together the travel arrangements and snagged the very last room in the hotel. My generous husband offered to cover for me at home and helped me pack. And suddenly I was on a train to the Lake District, headed for the misty hills of Derwentwater:
As you can see, the weather was blustery – perfect for curling up with a manuscript, or for a writerly chat over tea and scones. But we had sunny hours, too:
The lovely jeannineatkins, taking a post-breakfast perambulation with me
The view from the hotel window
My three days there were filled with laughter, hugs, and book talk. I wrote. I meditated. I spooned up sticky toffee pudding. I got soaked to the skin on a soppy lake cruise. I stayed up for late night heart-to-hearts.
The food was incredible, the company even better. An enchanted weekend, right down to the fairy butter sculpture:
Really, truly, she’s made of butter.
Look at those wings!
To be honest, the trip was at the limit of what’s possible for me at the moment, and I’m still in recovery mode back here at home. But as I told a friend the other day, I know the exhaustion will fade – and the memories of that weekend will be with me forever.
Recently I had one of the best surprises of my writing life, and it concerned a book that came out nine years ago.
Lots of people judge whether a book is a success by what happens in that first year, or even in the first few months. By that standard, my first book, Virginia Bound — a story about a boy who is kidnapped from London and shipped to Virginia as an indentured servant in the 1620s — barely held its own. There was a recession that year, and I wasn’t able to do a lot of publicity for it, and for a while I feared it would never find its audience.
Turns out, though, that the book was just a late bloomer. The year after it was published, it started showing up on state lists. Sales went up, not down. A few years after that it won a children’s choice award. And now, nine years down the line, I still get some lovely reader mail for it.
Still, I’ve never had a letter quite like the one I received last month from Mr. Andrew Lynch, a fourth-grade teacher at Creighton’s Corner Elementary School in Virginia. He emailed me to let me know that he’d read Virginia Bound to his class, and they’d kept a blog of the experience.
And oh, what a wonderful blog it is! At the end of key chapters, Mr. Lynch would ask them how they felt about what had happened, whether they would have made the same choices, and could they guess what would happen next. Even at the start, their answers are terrific. And as they get farther into the story, you can see how deeply engaged they become with the book and the characters — and loveliest of all, with each other, because there’s plenty of respectful but forthright debate in their blog. I tackle some really tough issues in Virginia Bound, and they were with me all the way.
In reading their blog, I got as close as a writer can to experiencing my book as readers do.
As Madeleine L’Engle once said, “With each book I write, I become more and more convinced that the books have a life of their own, quite apart from me.
It is wonderful to have a glimpse of the life my book is leading in Creighton’s Corner Elementary School. Thank you, Mr. Lynch’s fourth graders! You are wonderful readers, and you are moving and powerful writers, too.