Sunday, October 31, 2010

What I Learned in School This Month

October has been...busy. Three major events that involved traveling (2 by plane, 1 by car) and assorted deadlines both editorially imposed and self-imposed. But as often happens when barrels full of stuff come screaming my way, I learn a lot.

Start with Encyclomedia in Oklahoma - the state librarian conference. I was on a panel (thanks to Stacy Nyikos) with Class of 2k9ers Joy Preble (DREAMING ANASTASIA) and Fran Cannon Slayton (WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS) and 2k10ers Bonnie Doerr (ISLAND STING) and Denise Jaden (LOSING FAITH). (That's, left to right, Fran, Joy, Bonnie, Denise, and me.) We had a great time and a huge turnout - over 100 and possibly closer to 200 - librarians attended our New Voices panel. I finally met the inimitable Cynthea Liu and the talented Tammi Sauer. I loved seeing/meeting these guys and we had such fun talking about our travels and travails and the fortunes of a children's book author...

Homework lesson #1: There is nothing like the camaraderie of fellow writers to (a) help you cope with the ups and downs of writing and (b) cement your determination to continue.

Then to KidlitCon - the Kidlitosphere Conference in Minneapolis, hosted by a gracious triumvirate of Andrew Karre of Carolrhoda, Ben Barnhart of Milkweek Press, and Brian Farrey of Flux, and which brought friendly bloggers from across the "sphere"(I had such fun getting to know the people behind the blog names!) The amazing Swati Avasthi (SPLIT), who lives in Minneapolis, offered to help set up signings and a panel and..voila! I was there with Swati, Michele Corriel (FAIRVIEW FELINES) and Jacqueline Houtman (THE REINVENTION OF EDISON THOMAS), all of us from Class of 2k10 (left to right, Jacqueline, Swathi, me and Michele; photo by Andrew Karre.) And boy, was that a learning curve, the result of which (as I hope you'll see) I'll be REINVENTING THE BLOG OF JANET FOX. Rather than try and describe the conference, suffice to say that I learned one major lesson:

Homework lesson #2: Decide who your blog audience is. Right now, it's you guys who are, I think, mostly fellow writers and teachers and librarians. If I want to have teens visit, I need to rethink. Suggestions welcome. 

Then I was on my way to  Montana Festival of the Book in Missoula. What a great conference. I felt like royalty - I was hosted by Humanities Montana (isn't that a gorgeous poster? yes, I bought one!) and together again with Michele Corriel - who, I might add, knows everyone in Montana because of her legacy as a respected and widely published journalist - we presented a panel and were able to sign our books, and I was invited to read with Jeanette Ingold (which was an honor all by itself.)  That's me below with Cherie Newman, a producer at Yellowstone Public Radio, who interviewed me (a thrill!) for a YPR broadcast for January.

Homework lesson #3: Books in every form are alive and well and frankly always will be. The delivery system may change, but everyone loves a story. Fiction, nonfiction, memoir...everyone loves - needs - story.

So. We fellow writers must stick together, must determine our audience when we blog/speak/whatever, and must remember that story will always be around, no matter what happens to the "industry."


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fabulous New Fiction: 2k10 Debut Author Laura Sullivan

It's amazing to me that the Class of 2k10 has all but fully graduated, and I'm hosting our final debut author today. Where did the year go? Today I'm thrilled to be welcoming Laura Sullivan, who is here to talk about her new novel, UNDER THE GREEN HILL.

Congratulations, Laura, on the publication of your novel, UNDER THE GREEN HILL. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

Thank you so much for having me on Through the Wardrobe! The Chronicles of Narnia were a childhood obsession, and still are, really. I re-read them every couple of years. I even have a “through the wardrobe” reference in my first book.

UNDER THE GREEN HILL is about fairies, sacrifice, and the fate of the world. A group of American children are sent to England to stay with distant relatives, and find themselves in the middle of a fairy war. Rowan, the eldest, is chosen to be the Fairy Queen’s champion, and has to fight a mysterious opponent with a secret agenda. Only one will survive – the other will be the sacrifice to the land. His sister Meg is determined to save him, but everything that lives depends on the outcome of the Midsummer War.

A fellow Narnian! I should have know when I saw that gorgeous cover and heard about your book. How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?

The books I wrote as a teenager (the trunk books that will never see the light of day) were all written for adults. But since I’ve “grown up” almost everything I’ve written has been for children. Maybe I write what I yearn for? UNDER THE GREEN HILL and its sequel, GUARDIAN OF THE GREEN HILL (Fall 2011) are middle grade, while my next book, LADIES IN WAITING, is a bawdy young adult historical.

I recently made the plunge back into adult writing, though. I have a commercial action/romance set in the Everglades ready to go, and I’m working on something I call a pastoral comedy – I’m not exactly sure where it will be shelved!

Because I’m an adult who reads children’s books (not just because I write them, but because I love them!) and I know so many other adults who do, too, I always try to keep both audiences in mind when writing. The young readers are always the top priority of course (and I know we all go crazy when someone says their books are for all audiences, all ages) but I’m generally thinking of adult readers, too, in the back of my mind. It is a very delicate balance.

Wow. I'm impressed with your prolific output and broad range. Can you describe your path to the publication of UNDER THE GREEN HILL?

I wrote UNDER THE GREEN HILL a long time before I sold it – a really long time. I was sure it was the best thing I’d ever written, and I told myself if I don’t sell this, I’m not meant to be a writer. I queried several dozen agents and got nothing but rejections. So I quit writing. Completely. I decided to have an adventure, so I became a deputy sheriff. It was thrilling, empowering (and, to my surprise, made use of my writing skills) and for four years I loved it… but it wasn’t really me. Then I got married and had a baby, left the sheriff’s office, moved to the beautiful hills of eastern Kentucky… and of course began to write again. Writing was the only thing I ever wanted to do. I took another look at UNDER THE GREEN HILL, decided it was as good as I first thought, and sent it out. That time I got an agent right away, had several editors interested, and sold it in a two-book deal within two months of sending my query letter.

So you never know.

That is so true. Do you have any other advice for beginning writers?

Oh, golly… Read. Write. Repeat. Seriously, read everything, the Victorians, the best seller lists, in your genre and outside of it. Set aside time for writing, and stick to it, come heck or high water. If you give up, you better keep your old manuscripts, because you know you’ll change your mind. If you’re a writer, really a writer, I don’t think you can help writing. It is a pretty serious addiction.

And one more thing – never forget that luck is a huge part of this business. It is like playing the lottery. Writing a great book gets you two of the numbers, getting an agent another one, maybe having a platform or knowing some important people gets you that fourth number, but there are still two more to go before you hit the big prize, and you have almost no control over them. So if you get nothing but rejections, or have setbacks later in your career, remember, it might not be you or your writing. Always be working on something new. If you have talent, and persevere, odds are you’ll eventually get published.

Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?

After a nerve-wracking period of change (editor switching houses, leaving my agent, getting a divorce) things are looking brighter than ever! I have a fabulous new agent, Emily Van Beek of Folio, who loves both my children’s and adult work. I have five manuscripts ready or almost ready, and we’ll be sending some of them them out soon!

Right now I write full-time, and I hope to be able to continue to do that.

Best of luck with all of those changes - and so happy you found Emily! Do you have any new writing ventures underway?

Oh-boy do I ever! More than anything, I love to start a new study, which invariably leads to a new book. I’m a dilettante, which is terrible for, you know, a real working career, but great for a writer. (Not that writing isn’t a real career, but like any of the arts, the money is rarely commensurate with the hours you put into it.) I don’t think I could ever settle down to one genre or topic – and luckily, I have an agent who supports that.

I wrote a Middle Grade book set in Medieval Baghdad – THE BULBULS OF BAGHDAD – and I’m just finishing up a young adult set in Restoration England (1660s). One of the adult books features crime (which I know a lot about!) and Everglades survival, which I had to research. Let’s see, what else… a contemporary young adult called EUGENE about a boy searching through his mother’s very risqué diaries for clues about who his father might be. And a chapter book about a girl and her magic fleas.

I’d love to do more GREEN HILL books – I have so many ideas for what happens next! – but that’s up to the publisher, and of course, the readers.

What’s next? Maybe a YA science fiction about harnessing the amazing power of teen girl emotions to save the world. Maybe a fantasy set in WWII. We’ll see.

Wow - I'm very impressed, Laura. Do you have a website where readers can learn more about UNDER THE GREEN HILL and all of your other endeavors?

I have a very basic web site that will tell you more about my books, and me.   It is still being tweaked so it might be up and down for the next few weeks. Soon it will have information about the contests that will start when UNDER THE GREEN HILL is released October 26. I’m also active on Facebook, and I love to make new friends. Just search for Laura Sullivan. I’m the one with the big pink wings!

(I love those wings!)

Thank you so much for having me on Through the Wardrobe, Janet! It was a lot of fun!

Thank you!

Friday, October 22, 2010

News: Cover for FORGIVEN

I'm very excited today to be able to display the cover for my second novel, FORGIVEN (Speak/Penguin, late spring 2011).

FORGIVEN is a not-quite-sequel to FAITHFUL; in this second novel I follow the story of Kula Baker, a secondary character in FAITHFUL, to San Francisco in 1906. The novel is a romance and mystery and, like FAITHFUL, largely a coming-of-age story that takes my characters through the tumultuous, exciting city of San Francisco of that time and through the great earthquake and fires that so devastated the city in April of that year.

But I do want to mention that one of the subplots in FORGIVEN deals with the exploitation of children/child slavery. It is a facet of the history of Kula's time and place that I discovered during my research, and I couldn't, for obvious reasons, ignore it. I feel that it's important to turn the spotlight on this issue because, tragically, it still exists.

I want to add that Jeanine Henderson is the cover designer, and I think she's brilliant.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fabulous New Fiction: 2k10 Debut Author Laura Quimby

Today I'm delighted to introduce Laura Quimby, whose debut novel, THE CARNIVAL OF LOST SOULS: A HANDCUFF KID NOVEL, came out early this month and sounds like tons of fun.

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, THE CARNIVAL OF LOST SOULS. It’s such an intriguing title! Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

THE CARNIVAL OF LOST SOULS: A HANDCUFF KID NOVEL is the story about Jack, a charismatic delinquent, a foster kid who never seems to feel at home anywhere. His one constant in life is his love of magic and his hero Harry Houdini. Jack is placed with an eccentric professor and finally feels at home, until the professor sells him to an evil magician, the Amazing Mussini, into the land of the dead. Jack must travel with Mussini through the Forest of the Dead where he performs some of Houdini’s famed tricks in Mussini’s traveling magic show. If Jack stays in the Forest long enough, he’ll die himself. To find his way home, he’ll have the help of kids stolen just like Jack—and his wits, nothing more.

I was inspired to write the story after I read an autobiography about Harry Houdini and was inspired by how hard he worked to create magic tricks. Magic is often portrayed as easy and effortless, literally magic, and I loved the idea that magic was man made and tough.

I love stories about magic, and so do kids, who are sure to love this one. How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first?

I’ve been writing for children/teens for about five years. This is my first published novel, but like many writers I have piles of short stories, poems, and novels that I have written over the past twenty years.

Can you describe your path to the publication of THE CARNIVAL OF LOST SOULS? 

Publishing THE CARNIVAL OF LOST SOULS has been a long journey. The book was sold back in 2007 and has been in the pipeline for three years. It got bumped from its original pub date by a year, so I’m excited for it to finally hit the shelves.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers? 

My advice for beginning writers is simple: finish what you start. Every project no matter how small or ambitious, no matter if it sells or ends up in a drawer will help you develop as a writer.

Do you have any new writing ventures underway? 
My latest writing adventure is a YA steampunk murder mystery! I tend to gravitate to strange stories and my latest mystery was inspired by Edgar Allen Poe and is a mystery set in the alternate history of New Baltimore in the late 19th century. I have started a mg/ya mystery blog at:

Steampunk - one of my current favorites! Do you have a website where readers can learn more about THE CARNIVAL OF LOST SOULS?

And my new web site is up at:

Thanks, Janet!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Announcing the Classof2K10 230-Book Giveaway!

Inspired by this post by author Teri Brown, the Classof2K10 is ending off the year with a massive book club giveaway.

Five book clubs around the country can win a prize pack of three to six sets of books written by the authors from the Class of 2K10. The pack includes TEN copies of each book, and in some packs one of the books will be signed by the author.

The contest is open to all book clubs associated with a nonprofit institution, a school, or a library. To enter, just comment on this entry, specifying which of the prize packs you are interested in and which nonprofit you are affiliated with. The giveaway will end on November 11, 2010.

If there are any additional questions, please contact Leah Cypess.
The prize packs are:  
Mid-grade fantasy:
The Carnival of Lost Souls by Laura Quimby
Under The Green Hill by Laura Sullivan
Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams by Rhonda Hayter

Mid-grade contemporary:
Fairview Felines by Michele Corriel
Island Sting by Bonnie Doerr
Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham
The Reinvention of Edison Thomas by Jacqueline Houtman
Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai

YA Fantasy/Paranormal Pack 1
13 to Life by Shannon Delany
Freaksville by Kitty Keswick
Mistwood by Leah Cypess

YA Fantasy/Paranormal Pack 2
Past Midnight by Mara Purnhagen
Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
Under My Skin by Judith Graves

YA Contemporary Pack 1
Change of Heart by Shari Maurer
Faithful by Janet Fox
Losing Faith by Denise Jaden
The Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBride

YA Realistic Pack 2
Of All the Stupid Things by Alexandra Diaz
Party by Tom Leveen
Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards
The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard
Split by Swati Avasthi

  1. You must be a book club affiliated with a nonprofit, school, or library, and located in the continental United States.
  2. To enter, leave a comment at the original post at the Class of 2k10 blog. Specify which of the prize packs you are interested in – you may choose from only one, to all five, as we will be holding 5 separate drawings.  (However, no club will win more than one prize pack.)
  3. Leave an email in the comment where you can be reached should you win.
  4. If the email address is a not an institution address, please specify which nonprofit, school, or library you are affiliated with.
  5. If you are not sure whether you qualify, just leave the relevant information in the comment.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Before the Split Charity Auction

AuctionTo honor National Domestic Violence Awareness month, author Swati Avasthi has combined a blog tour for her debut novel, Split, with a charity auction. Over 40 authors, agents and editors have donated manuscript critiques, personalized books, and more to an online auction that anyone –reader, writer, booklover -- can bid on and buy.  All proceeds go to the Family Violence Prevention Fund. In addition to the auction, Avasthi is donating $1/comment on her 26-stop, month-long blog tour, coordinated by Kari Olson at Teen Book Scene. If we reach the goal and cap of $250, Swati will double the donation to the Family Violence Prevention Fund.  The CDC estimates that one in four women will experience intimate partner abuse during her life and UC Davis estimates that a child who grew up witnessing abuse is four times as likely to perpetrate abuse, 25 times more likely to commit rape and 6 times more likely to commit suicide. Family Violence Prevention Fund has some great initiatives, including Coaching Boys Into Men and Start Strong, that are about breaking the intergenerational cycle and preventing abuse.  

I'm very proud to be a participant in Swati's auction. I've donated a critique of the first 10 pages of your middle grade or young adult manuscript. To sweeten my donation, I'll throw in a copy of my first novel Faithful...and, as soon as it becomes available, an ARC of my second novel Forgiven. Most importantly I promise to give your work my keenest editorial eye.

Click on the button to reach the auction (and check out the other wonderful opportunities, too.)