Sunday, June 29, 2014

Invest A Dime

I have a lot of half-baked news which is probably best left in the oven for a while before I pull it out and offer it up.

Which is too bad, 'cause it's really fun to talk with you guys about things.

Instead I'm going to share my little revelation for the week, which is how important person-to-person talking is. E-mails and messaging have taken over as a form of contact, and for the most part I'm okay with communicating that way. But over time it does create a gap in relationships.The person behind the words fades. You can't hear them laugh, or feel the warmth of their voice. Even a hesitation gets lost in translation. So much of our emotional connection disappears when we move from in-person to over-phone. Phone to e-mail is another huge step away.

And then, oh yeah, texting.

The thing everyone uses their phone for.

Don't get me wrong. I love texting. But it's not the same thing as talking.

I bring this up because I had a really nice talk with my editor, Nancy, on Friday. We talked about all sorts of things, from our families to publishing to the upcoming Sammy Keyes party in Washington, and I hung up reminded that I really like her as a person. She is an awesome, extraordinary editor, but she's also a really wonderful person. Something that can be easily overshadowed by the manic shuffle of e-mails and publishing demands.

Nancy and I have 32 books together which is a pretty unusual accomplishment, especially in this day and age. From the outside ours is a pretty storied relationship, but as in any relationship, there have been times where things didn't go so smoothly. We've had frustrations and tears. We've had misunderstandings and pockets of uncertain silence. But we've eventually picked up the phone and talked things out. Or sat up half the night in a hotel room and talked things out. I think it's one of the big reasons we've made it through this many years and this many books together. I think it's the reason we're friends.

Our society has moved away from personal interactions in business. Conference calls substitute for meeting at conferences. Author Skype "visits" are now thought to be an acceptable substitutes for the author actually visiting. I get the financial aspect to this, but the results are not the same. Not even close.

So text and e-mail and message away, but remember to pick up the phone from time to time. The human brain is hardwired to respond to the frequencies of human speech, and when it comes to conveying emotion, nothing fully substitutes for that.

Wish you could hear my voice as I say Thanks for checking in--see you in the comments!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Opinion, Please!

Feel like giving me your opinion?

I sure hope so!

We sent a little questionnaire about the possible reissue of the Sammy paperbacks to booksellers we visited on the Southern Loop of our tour. I thought it would be nice to get your input, too! After all, who knows Sammy better than you guys, right?

There's lots I could say about this, but I think it's best for objective feedback if I just present it to you without preamble. The Overview is not necessary for most of you, but I'm including it nonetheless, and I've whittled the questionnaire down to two basic questions.

Here we go!

OVERVIEW: Sammy Keyes is a scrappy middle school girl who lives illegally in a seniors-only apartment building with her grandmother. People define her as a modern-day Nancy Drew, but she can be hot headed and sassy. The 18-book series takes her from the first week of 7th grade through 8th grade, with each book occurring about a month later in her life. Although content and language are clean and the books are funny, Sammy tackles serious subjects, making the books edgy and tween/teen-relevant without crossing into YA territory.

On the left are two images—the existing paperback cover art and a very rough, incomplete mock-up of what a realistic cover might look like. (We’d need to have a girl with jeans and high-tops, for starters!) As a basic concept, though…

Which style of cover do you think works better, HUMOROUS (the yellow one) or REALISTIC (the mock-up)?


How about the images below? Any comments? 

The series is presently not numbered. Would you prefer the books to remain UNNUMBERED or be NUMBERED (and throw in a Why if you're so inclined.)

If you have other comments do express them! And if you have an image idea that you think better captures Sammy, send it to me here.

As always, thanks for checking in. Really looking forward to your comments! 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Stars Flip Life and Art

“Life imitates art.”  We’ve all heard that.  And sometimes it happens.  But sometimes life – which is typically messier, less structured, and less satisfying than well-conceived art, actually goes beyond art in reaching a meaningful resolution.

Mark here, writing for Wendelin.  Not because she’s extra busy (which she is – Colton graduates from college this weekend and we’re planning a celebration) but because sometimes things are better related by a third party observer than by someone in the thick of it… maybe think of Nick & Jay in Gatsby.

We just saw The Fault in Our Stars.  This isn’t a film review, but in brief: we liked it and thought the film did a great job of faithfully bringing the book to the screen.  However, for me the most interesting part of the plot was a subplot about, well… a book plot.  Speaking generically—so as not to get too spoilerish for the three among you who haven’t yet read the book—the protagonist has a favorite book which she absolutely loves, but the ending is open-ended and she really wants to know ‘what happens after the end of the book’.  The non-answer she finally gets might be satisfactory for a disinterested middle-aged intellectual, but it doesn’t really work for an emotionally-invested teenager.  (Which is part of the point, I suppose.)

Now flash-forward (or back, or sideways, depending on where you’re standing in time) to a small bookstore far, far away (the Midwest) at a time long, long ago (six weeks as I write this).  We’re doing an in-store event as part of our tour.  Among the people in attendance are a teenage boy and his mother.  The boy has a physical challenge which—among other things—renders his speech a bit slower than some of us (perhaps cerebral palsy?) but he is clearly an avid reader and really bright.  And it’s also clear—from his interactions with his mother as well as from what follows—that he’s an incredibly sweet young man.

After the ‘presentation’ part of our presentation, we typically take questions.  This boy has a few questions, and his final one is basically “What happens after the end of Flipped?”  But you could tell from his demeanor that this was the reason he and his mom drove three hours to see us.  The other questions were just a warm-up, but this was something hugely significant to him.

Wendelin has been asked related questions about Flipped exactly one zillion times.  (Usually some version of, “Are you going to write a sequel?”)  And all she typically says is that she’s not going to write a sequel—she really likes the open-yet-hopeful way the story ends because it makes the reader think, rather than wrapping everything up with a nice bow.  And she usually leaves it at that.  But this boy already knew the above… his query was centered around the deeper issue of, “What do you—as the creator of these characters—think might happen with Julie and Bryce beyond the last page of the book?”  And Wendelin—in a life-exceeds-art move—made a one-time exception for this emotionally-invested teen regarding ‘never discussing Flipped beyond-the-ending-as-written’, and gave him her heartfelt opinion as to what might become of Julie and Bryce.

When she finished, the boy let out a huge sigh—he had literally been holding his breath—and just enthusiastically nodded his thanks through his tears, over and over.  It was one of those moments—in a trip filled with thousands of moments—that I will never, ever forget.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Gallop to Puyallup!

I did not know where Puyallup, Washington was, but I do now. The person who has put this place on the map for me is a librarian by the name of Wadham.

Dr. Wadham, I presume!

Yup. Although he prefers a simple Tim,over a professorial salutation.

Tim has been a fan of Sammy Keyes since the first book came out, and has decided the last book and series wrap-up needs a party.

Three cheers for Tim! And the  Puyallup Public Library. And the mayor. And, well, clearly the People of Puyallup, who support library programs and have hosted several big events before to support literacy.

What I know about this party is...not much. Tim's being all cloak-and-dagger. I can hear his hands rubbing in evil glee over the phone as he tells me he's not telling me a thing.

But I know it will be held at Puyallup's classic Liberty Theater .
And I know Nancy will be flying in from NYC.
And I know the party is being held on Saturday, October 4th.
And I know that there will be live music, special guests, and that the catering will feature food mentioned in the Sammy books, including "God-like mac 'n' cheese 'n' salsa.' (How awesome is that?!)

And I know...

Well, what I'm thinking is...

You should come!

Crazy, right?

But if there was ever a, you know, Sammy-con in the foreseeable future, this would be it. And how fun would it be to all meet up?

I know, I know, I know....Seattle is way off in the upper left corner of the USA, and some of you live nowhere near the upper left corner of the USA.

But there are cheap flights to be found from the other corners of the USA.

And from the middle of it, too!

Plus the Seattle area is beautiful, with lots to do. Go to Pike's Place! The Space Needle! Sculpture Park! Ride a ferry! Or the Great Wheel! Hit Chinatown, or watch salmon swim up locks! And on Saturday night, go to the Sammy Keyes party! What a weekend adventure you could have!

So don't say no right away.

Mark your calendar.

Think about it.

Then start rubbing your hands together, scheming about how you're going to make it happen!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Odometer Says...

Eight thousand, five hundred sixty miles!

(Actually, it says, 8560.)

Which means that the winner is...Karen from Minneapolis!

Congratulations, Karen from Minneapolis, I will send you a copy of Kiss Goodbye as soon as my author copies arrive...probably early September.

Thank you to everyone who sent in guesses...answers were all over the map (which seems appropriate, really). And I loved reading your "Sammy Keyes is..." sentences. I laughed about the ones that were unabashed run-on sentences. So funny! So Sammy!

I also have to say that one of you (okay, it was Sean from North Carolina) had me laughing out loud by signing off with "Holy smokes! Look at the time! Dive for the bushes!"

I just love this group of people. You guys are awesome.

So (switching subjects) to Kiss Goodbye.

I got word from my editor that representatives for the band Queen have denied my use of more than 14 words from the lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody. I used 17. These lyrics were to appear in Chapter 2.

So I had to figure out what to do, and I did that (grumbling all the while that if Queen knew Sammy, they would be all over being included in Kiss Goodbye. Come on. Freddie Mercury would have loved Sammy's spunk!)

Uncomfortably, their denial wasn't communicated in a manner timely enough to prevent all seventeen words from being included in the ARC, or, it turns out, the first printing of the Killer Cruise paperback.

Yup, the paperback of Killer Cruise (which came out while we were on the road) has a two chapter (plus the prologue) excerpt from Kiss Goodbye.

Queen violation aside, I had no idea there would be a sneak-peek of Kiss Goodbye in the book so when I saw it and said, "Holy smokes! Look at that! Dive for the bushes!"

Well, something similar.

It all of a sudden felt...real.

Like, you know, THE END!

So (dropping any Queenly concerns entirely now) since the beginning of THE END is already out there for anyone to see, I thought...well, I may not want to read on if you don't want to know anything more than you already know about Kiss Goodbye.

Test your self control if you must! Stop here! Go back!

Because below is a (kinda lousy) scan of the first page of the "sneak peek" -- the equivalent of the prologue in all previous Sammys. My intention is not to be cruel (although it's feeling a little that way at this moment).

I'm only posting one page.

144 words (well, 150 if you break up the 6 contractions).

And absolutely no Queen rights violations!

But if you want to wait 100 days (exactly from today) to read it, do not scroll down.  The 'prologue' is titled A Warning From Wendelin, which says it all.

But I will still double warn you:

Read at your own risk!

And that's all for tonight. See you (I'm sure) in the comments!