Thursday, September 1, 2011

New York; New Book!

I recently returned from a trip to New York City. Close observers will realize quickly that the photo above is not me in New York. It is me with Julie (my hiking wife) just before we climbed Mt. Cube in New Hampshire, which is not in New York City. I offer this picture as a point of comparison.

Please notice the expression on my face when I am out in the woods.

Look carefully and see if you can spot the subtle differences between that picture and this photo of me in New York City.

There are other differences between my real life and NYC.

1. The scenery.

View from a New Hampshire summit:

View from a NYC summit:

2. The natural wonders.

New Hampshire's rare and much sought after natural beer spring:

New York's shy and elusive Lego lion:

I went to New York City with Kerri (my real-life, non-hike wife) to meet my agent, Abi, and my editor, Sylvie.

I was meeting them because it seems that I have finally managed to sell my first chapter book.

(insert sound effect of wild applause)

In the interest of total disclosure, I have not yet signed the contract so there is still the extremely slight but very real possibility that this will totally tank, but I think not. And I hope not. 

I wrote about this book on my blog a long time ago. You can go back and read it or skip ahead for a brief, yet thrilling, summary.

Briefly, here is what happened:

Many years ago, I sent a picture book manuscript to Abi, my editor at Tricycle.
Abi did not like my book.
She suggested that it might make a good chapter book if I could bulk it up  a bit. Like, you know, bring it up from 800 words to... oh... I don't know... 23,000 words.
So I did.
But she didn't like that either. 
So I did another one.
And she liked it.
So, I sat waiting for her to send me a contract.
But she had to take it to meetings and convince other people that it was a good book.
So I waited.
And waited.
And waited.
And then Random House bought Tricycle.
And everyone was very excited.
And I waited.
And waited.
And waited.
And then Random House shut Tricycle down.
And people were not so excited about that.
Especially Abi, my editor, who, in addition to the crippling blow of not being able to edit my book, no longer had a job.
I had my manuscript back.
I sent it to Holiday House and heard from Sylvie, an omnipotent editor who said she liked it.
Meanwhile, back at the farm, Abi became an agent and, after eventually getting sick of my constant pleading, whining, begging, and wheedling, said that she would represent me.
So, armed with Abi's ridiculous ninja-like agent powers, we have hammered out a deal to finally bring my chapter book to the masses.
The book itself is sort of like Charlotte's Web, except that it has no pig, no spider, no farm, no animals, and is actually about a dorky boy and his two dorky friends who try to start a boy-band to win the school competition. But other than that, it is almost a complete rip-off of Charlotte's Web.
Sylvie, the editor extraordinaire, has contributed many very helpful ideas to the development of the book including changing it to be a first-person story.
My previous experiences in publishing have all been with picture books, which have a very low word count. Editing and revising an 800 word story can be slightly time-consuming, but completely rewriting a 23,000 word book is slightly more time consuming.
I was very happy to have her input on the book, however–no matter how much I cried as I rewrote it again and again and again.

So when, in the midst of a flurry of emails about contract negotiations, which included phrases like

"Notwithstanding the foregoing, should, during the term of this Agreement"...

There was mention of meeting for breakfast, I took notice.

"I like breakfast," I thought, "I should get in on this!"

The fine print, that the breakfast in question would take place in New York City, did not fully dawn on me until I had committed to it.

So Kerri and I packed the kids away in a closet and spent a delightful 36 hours in Manhattan at a hotel that was, if the description on their website was to be believed, "Nestled in a quiet, residential neighborhood."

This is the view out of our hotel window:

I suppose that everything is relative and it was quiet compared to a Slayer concert. During low level nuclear testing.

We spent the first day wandering around Manhattan, enjoying the many splendid sights that await a couple of slack-jawed yokels visiting the big city.

We gaped at the ceiling in the NY Public Library (in which we were unable to locate a single book):

We enjoyed the view from the top of The Empire State Building and learned that this big pole thing on the top was designed as a docking site for blimps. True fact.

We saw surly teen-aged kids who did not want their pictures to be taken:

We saw parents of those kids who probably wish that this picture had not been taken:

We saw the Police Department Riot Squad arrive for some festivities (we did not bother to stick around and discover what the festivities in question were):

And we saw some things that utterly mystified us:

If anyone can explain what a "Disco Nap" is , or why anyone might be willing to shell out $2/minute for it, I would very much like to know.

We also went to Times Square where people from all over the world gather together to watch 100 foot TV ads for hours at a time:

We eventually staggered back to our quiet, residential hotel in mid-town Manhattan and dropped off to a restful slumber, lulled to sleep by the relaxing sirens, horns, and random shouts that danced in the still night air.

The next morning, we went off to meet and eat with Abi and Sylvie, the two most powerful people in the publishing world.

It was a delightful breakfast, made even more delightful by the fact that Holiday House paid for it. Sylvie and Abi were both charming, intelligent, and lovely and I would say that even if my future earnings didn't depend so much on their continued interest in my work.

To my lasting chagrin, I completely forgot to get a picture of the three of us together. I suspect that it wouldn't have worked out even if I had remembered. I have a sneaky suspicion that Abi's slick ninja powers make it so she doesn't even show up on film.

Sylvie then took us on a tour of the Holiday House offices, where I met the staff and saw lots of amazing artwork by some of my favorite illustrators. I'm humbled and excited to be on a list with Trina Schart Hyman, Edward Gorey, and James Ransome.

Maybe when I finish the artwork for this book, it will hang with those wonderful pieces. If it does, I'll celebrate by having another breakfast with Abi and Sylvie. But next time it will be in New Hampshire. Maybe I'll take them out to that beer fountain in the woods.
And after that, we can all take a Disco Nap.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

a disco nap is something you take before you go to the club so you have more energy at the club. or it's the nap you take btwn happy hour and going out to the club.