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Travel, book launches, sickness, book deal announcements, and…everything.

Wow, it’s been quiet around here, which is obviously completely my fault. But oh, have I had a busy time of it, readers.

First of all, I haven’t been able to promo my Trevor Project thing as much as I’d like, so I’m going to let that run into June. And here’s why:

I had TWO book deadlines in April. Which was fine, until I pulled a muscle in my back and couldn’t walk for a week. Just as I was getting over that, I gave myself shingles.

That was…not fun.

What WAS fun, even with shingles, was getting on a plane and going to NYC to celebrate CODA’s official launch day. There was much revelry and laughter and things involving cheeseburgers and ketchup and pickle juice that I’m not willing to explain.

I saw Amazing Editor Lisa, who crossed state lines with CAKE for me:

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And friends sent cupcakes and chocolate and the craziest, most beautiful flowers ever:

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And I saw CODA on a table in Barnes & Noble in fabulous company:

 

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I met Awesome Editor Zareen for the first time, and she is WONDERFUL and I feel even luckier than I did before, which I didn’t know was possible. Also, she took me to eat sushi.

I went to Philadelphia and did an impromptu CODA signing in the Running Press offices, where I met ALL THE PEOPLE, before Amazing Editor Lisa took me out for delicious food with Equally Amazing Publicist Gigi and Designer Frances.

Aaaand I did all kinds of other New York Things like eat pizza and have Best Brunch Ever with one of my dearest friends, and play Cards Against Humanity in the Old Town Bar with a stellar collection of publishing people.

Now I’m back and working on many things, like a synopsis for the book that will follow FLIGHTS AND CHIMES AND MYSTERIOUS TIMES, and reading someone’s manuscript, and reminding my body what sleep is. In amongst all that, THIS HAPPENED:

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-book-news/article/57370-the-cabinet-of-curiosities-leaps-from-blog-to-book.html

We’ve known about the deal for a while, and it’s been SO tough to keep quiet. Finally we can talk about it, and PW did the above awesome article on it, so I’ll just say here that I adore my fellow Curators and all four of our agents, who have worked so hard to pull this together, and Virginia Duncan for wanting to publish the anthology, and everyone at HarperCollins/Greenwillow Books for being awesome.

Phew! I’m tired now. I’ll try not to let the dust build up on the blog in the coming weeks!

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Posted by on May 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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A quick round up of Happening Things

Life is getting busy in the run-up to CODA; I can’t believe it’s already almost here. Three hundred and fifty five days after I first typed The End, my book will be out in the world. I have so much to do, but here’s a lighting-fast collection of things that have happened or are happening:

My latest story went up at The Cabinet of Curiosities yesterday.

Kelly Johnson had me over at My Countless Lives to confess five guilty pleasures. Thanks, Kelly!

CODA pre-orders are on sale at Amazon. I have no idea how long the sale will last, so grab it while you can, if you’re so inclined!

Busy as I am with writing and whatnot, I’ve taken a little time out to read some great books recently. For fans of contemporary YA, I cannot recommend ELEANOR & PARK or ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE highly enough.

The beautiful, wonderful, sparkly Tonya reviewed CODA at The Midnight Garden.

And finally, Jay Spencer has me over at All the Write Notes today discussing my favorite bands and songs, and how music is an essential part of my writing process, complete with gifs and the greatest Robert Smith pic ever!

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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The countdown begins! (And other random stuff)

SIX MONTHS TO CODA!

For some reason this feels really huge, like we’re entering the home stretch. Pages have been proofread, ARCs are beginning to make their way out into the world. This is both exciting and a little nerve-wracking, and all I can really say about that is that I hope people enjoy it. Final decisions are being made. After almost exactly 2 years (I started writing it the last week of December 2010) I don’t get to change it anymore. That’s kind of weird.

While all that’s been happening, I wrote most of a (very messy) first draft of another MG book, finished the first round of edits on Magic Bird Book, and last weekend, resumed work on CHORUS, the sequel to CODA.

Me, for the past five weeks.

Returning to CHORUS has been interesting. I wrote a decent-sized chunk of it last December/January, and then for various reasons to do with timing and deadlines and more urgent things, I put it aside. I looked at it briefly in April, but really it hadn’t been touched for almost a year. I know the whole basic plot, but did I know what I meant to write in the sentence after the last one I wrote in January?

Answer: no.

I jumped that hurdle, though, and being back with these characters is a lot of fun, not only because of the awesome music I get to listen to while I write it. (OK, a big part of the fun is the awesome music.) Writing it makes me think a lot of the time when I was writing CODA, and comparing that to where I am now, with just six months before it’s on shelves, is kind of surreal and so, so cool.

That’s pretty much it! There’ll be some exciting announcements soon about stuff happening in January and beyond, but I can’t quite talk about them yet. Stay tuned!

Nothing to see here.

Em

xo

 

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Unbearable Dullness of Settling

It’s been one of those weeks, and it’s only Wednesday. Looming deadlines, decisions to make, a migraine, laundry, wrestling with a book draft, abandoning 80% of my to-do list every day and having a new to-do list the next, guilt over not doing ALL THE THINGS, RIGHT AWAY, because some of that to-do list affects other people. I need to take a deep breath, eat some chocolate, get a massage, and get back to work.

So why am I blogging? Because this article – found in my agent’s Twitter feed – touched a nerve and now I’m feeling ranty. If my blog stats are anything to go by, you guys like it when I rant, so here you are. I’m a giver that way.

The author, who has a freshly-published book on the subject of the article, talks about the pointlessness of finding your passion in life before you make a career out of it. Get a career, he says, and then let the passion come.

I need a minute to figure out where to start with this. Saying “this is such BS” is tempting, but it doesn’t really cover everything I think, nor is it fair to this guy I so completely disagree with, and I do try to be fair. I’m completely willing to accept that this philosophy worked for him – more on that in a minute – but it doesn’t work for everyone. To offer this kind of sweeping “advice” is naive bordering on harmful.

Right this second, I’m sitting in my living room surrounded by the detritus of a writing life: empty coffee mugs, my iPod, a half-eaten snack, three notebooks and seven pens. Scrivener is open on my desktop, the manuscript I have been writing and re-drafting since March. By an almost immeasurable margin, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever worked on. I’ve doubted myself often. I’ve considered trashing it more times than I care to count. It’s made me cry until I laughed because there wasn’t any other choice but to laugh.

If I’d been waiting for the passion to find me, I’d still be in the dark. During every hard time, every self-questioning moment, what’s kept me going is the enthusiasm I have for writing, for words, for bringing stories alive. The passion I already had. That same passion got me through rough times with CODA, through the query process, through every challenge, obstacle, and pitfall that’s happened on its way to becoming a Real Book I Can Hold. It’s gotten me through this week, which is why the article annoyed me so much.

It could be argued that Mr. Newport was talking about people with desk jobs, office jobs, eight-hours-in-a-cubicle jobs. That argument works until it’s countered by the one that says every single publishing professional I know, and that’s a decent number spread across many career paths, says that the only way to make it in this world is to treat writing like a job. To be professionals about it. And, while I’m sure they’ll correct me if I’m wrong, I feel comfortable saying that absolutely none of them want to work with a writer who says, “Here, I wrote this book, and honestly I hated the experience, but I’m hoping I’ll learn to love it.” Even if he was only talking about desk jobs…so what? Passion is one thing that gets you through the rough times. I don’t think it’s born from them.

He also says that this advice doesn’t apply to people who have a lifelong dream of a specific thing, but I didn’t always know I wanted to be a writer. I always knew I liked to write, but that’s not the same. Even if I had known at 22 that I wanted to be a writer, I wouldn’t have been the same one I am today. That’s just the way life works. We change, grow, and learn, and then we apply those lessons to the life we have now.

Could the skills I use as a writer be equally applied to a different job? Yes. Would I enjoy it as much? No idea. I’ve found what I want to do. For the moment, at least, I don’t have a lot of interest in looking for something else to do. Nor do I have the time. But if I did, I’d use the things I’m good at, my own unique skill set, to do something else. I can’t help but feel he’s missing his own point here. Yes, he had different career options, but all of them built on skills he has and clearly enjoys. Whether he enjoys them because he has them isn’t really the issue, and is an argument for the philosophers among us.

Not everyone loves everything about their job all the time. I’d argue most people don’t. Work is hard, and it probably should be. I don’t for a second advocate giving up a job when things get rough. But the idea that struggling through misery is what makes us worthwhile humans frankly disgusts me. There are a lot of reasons to just keep swimming, even when the tide is against us, but most of them involve things like food and rent and bills, or eventual career progression, or because there are no other options.

Also, it’s pretty difficult to take seriously advice not to explore opportunities or hope for that “dream job” from a guy who makes part of his living from writing books that have nothing to do with his other career. Or from a guy who details in the linked article the three very attractive job paths open to him when he left college.

I wonder whether he thinks the barista who makes his coffee (for minimum wage) is just waiting for the passion to come.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The price of intangible things, and why we should pay it

Between the meteoric rise of e-book popularity, DOJ lawsuits, and unapologetic pirate sites, the debate over the cost of e-books doesn’t look like it will end anytime soon. I got into a discussion about this with someone the other day, so it’s been on my mind more than usual ever since.

It’s interesting (and telling) to me that the dictionary defines “immaterial” as both “something intangible” and “something worthless or irrelevant.” And it’s partly this, I think, that’s led to me having to explain to people why e-books shouldn’t be free. Because it didn’t cost anything to make, right? It’s just sitting in a database somewhere, ready to be downloaded forever and ever and ever. It’s not the same as a “real” book, which has to be printed and manufactured and physically distributed to a brick-and-mortar bookstore or the warehouse of an online distributor.

Well, that’s kind of true. The second copy of the e-book cost almost nothing to make. The first copy, though, cost more than anyone should pay to own a single book, ever, at least if that e-book was edited properly by professionals, designed by layout designers, given a cover by a graphic artist and maybe a photographer, coded by someone who knows what they’re doing, and marketed by specialists. It takes a large number of people to create a quality book, physical or digital, and all those people have to be paid for their services.

Oh, and so does the author.

I agree that an e-book probably shouldn’t cost as much as a hardcover, which is a physical thing, in the same way that mp3’s shouldn’t cost as much as getting that same album on vinyl. They’re different formats and should be priced accordingly, but the digital versions should cost money. It’s worth noting here that in the course of the conversation that led to this post, I said I would be in favor of the publishing industry adopting the model offered by so many record labels–that of a “free” digital copy with the purchase of the most expensive physical format. Buying vinyl and getting a much more portable copy for download isn’t anything new to music lovers. But I digress, sort of, and anyway that’s about as far as the two industries can function in the same way. Musicians don’t make money from album sales anymore, it comes from touring, and my Twitter feed the last time an author tried to charge outright for a bookstore appearance was an ugly, ugly thing.

Regardless of the delivery system, the purchase of a book isn’t about simply owning the book. I can hear the protests now, but it’s true. If all we wanted to do was fill our bookshelves, the books on those shelves wouldn’t matter. We’d go into the store and haphazardly grab whatever was in reach, pay for it, go home, and leave their spines uncracked forever. The price we pay is for the experience of having already read the book, been lost in the story, in the same way that concert tickets provide a fleeting few hours of escapism but the memories stick around far longer. The same goes for movies, roller coasters, skydiving. It’s human nature to pursue experiences and reality that we should have to pay for them.

It’s also, though, human nature to become attached to objects, and so we become attached to books we can hold, whose pages we can flip through and sniff and measure affection for by the wearing at the edges. And when we can’t do that because those words are on our e-readers, the connection is harder to grasp and hold. . . for the reader. But I’m going to tell you a little secret:

The connection is the same for the author. Someone slaved over that book, loved and hated it in turns. It’s someone’s brainchild, maybe their proudest moment. Whether or not that should matter to the reader is up for debate, since to an extent authors let go of their books when they’re released out into the world, but it’s relevant when talking about value and cost and therefore someone’s (at least partial) livelihood. As an author, watching books sell for 99 cents all the time, in a you-get-what-you-pay-for world, is difficult. People with much louder voices than mine have discussed at length the idea that cheapness = bad quality, and that buyers will question whether a book being sold for a buck is worth reading to begin with. Sure, it’s great when things go on sale and become affordable to people who might not be able to pay full price, but it’s also one more thing, when done en masse, that devalues the written word.

It’s not the only thing.

The internet itself is the biggest culprit here. Anyone can–and should–write whatever they want online. News is available constantly, just hit the refresh button. Even if I limited my blog reading strictly to the things I’m interested in, I’d need 48 hours in every day and the ability to survive on no food or sleep just to read them all. The problem, (other than that 48-hour days seem in short supply) is that a wealth of anything drives down the market value for everything in that category, including information. And at this point, we’re used to reading for free–on our computers, our phones, at home and at work.

This creates a strange situation in which the internet, which is almost totally responsible for e-books and certainly responsible for their explosion, is also the biggest threat to reading for pleasure at all. What’s the point, and is there even time?

Please, for the love of everything sacred, make the time. And pay the price.

I’m not only saying that as an author, though it’s true that I really want people to buy my book when it comes out. I’m saying it because although the reading (and writing and publishing) landscape has changed, books are our future and our history. The price, whatever it is, isn’t for the copy of Harry Potter on the shelf–it’s for the memory of reading it for the first time. In the case of almost every other author in the world, it’s for the possibility that the author will write another book you’ll hopefully love.

My final point is one that occurred to me in a jet lagged haze but might be the most important of all: Maybe we like the intangibility. Not because it’s portable or uncomplicated, but because fewer and fewer people are going into bookstores and plunking $20s down on the counter. To accept that e-books are “real” and as worthy of protection from piracy and wacky pricing as physical books is also to accept that in pressing that easy one-click button to hit up our already-stored credit card, we paid real money for them.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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How the Olympics slapped me with the wet suck-it-up fish

The Olympics are on! Drama! Big gold medals! Sweaty, muscly men in tight clothes!

Er.

The Olympics are supposed to be inspirational. It’s part of their purpose, along with deciding who the best sportspeople in the world are. Honestly, I feel like if you make it that far, you’re the best anyway, regardless of what a few points or hundredths of a second say, but that’s not my point here. It occurred to me the other day that I personally have never been inspired by the Olympics, but that realization came when, all of a sudden, I was. Or, more accurately, I was slapped in the face with the Soggy Trout of Truth.

I’ve been watching this year with a different kind of interest than I ever have before. I’m the first to admit that I have no concept of what these athletes put themselves through physically, since my life goals require me to sit at a computer for long stretches, but I know what it’s like to want to be great at a specific thing. A thing that requires training and hard work and mental strength, if not any muscles besides the ones that keep me upright and typing. So it’s through that eye that I’ve admired and cheered and drooled over the muscles.

There are only a few sports I’m really interested in. I don’t do any of them because they involve wearing something other than yoga pants, but put them on TV or a live feed online and I’ll sit there, mouth open, breath held, sometimes with my eyes scrunched shut because I just can’t watch. It’s a good look, let me tell you. One of these has long been track cycling, because I’ve always been a speed demon and these people can get up to cheetah speeds in under ten seconds from a standing start. That shizz is EXCITING, yo.

So there I was, glued to the scratch race of the men’s Omnium, which is basically the track cycling version of a heptathlon, except there are six elements. The scratch race is one of the longer ones, which makes it especially fun because it’s sort of impossible to pick the winner. Unlike some of the other races which have only one or two cyclists on the track, everyone and their dog (ok, no dogs) gets in on a scratch race, so you have a bunch of people jockeying for position on a steeply banked, polished wood surface while going at frightening speeds.

 
You might guess where I’m going with this.

 
The Danish guy who went on to win the Omnium crashed, and he was damn lucky not to take at least two other riders out with him. He slid down the bank to the infield, leaving a metric ton of uniform AND HIS SKIN on the track on his way, and by the time he came to a stop at his coach’s feet, he was looking for a spare bike to get back in the race. That is BAD. ASS. Not only did he get back in, he won. As in, beat-everyone-to-the-finish-line-eat-my-dust-suckers WON. Later, he said the crash gave him the adrenaline boost he needed to win the race and the event. I say again, BAD. ASS.

So, yeah. This is basically the point at which Emma starts to wonder why she complains about anything, ever.

Sometime, likely while I’m on a manuscript-completion high, a longer post will come about the process of writing my current book, and how different it’s been to writing CODA, but for now, CODA was kind of the surprise win coming from the back of the pack, and when the race ended I felt like it had been almost frighteningly easy. Huge chunks of that book seemed to write themselves while I slept. Maybe I had a helpful house elf. Maybe I was inspired. Maybe there was just no pressure. Maybe it was easier. Probably it was a combination of all of those except the house elf, which is a shame but that’s a rant for another day.

Not so, with what has come to be known as Magical Bird Book, except by people who know the actual title. “Writing is hard,” I whine when it doesn’t go my way. There are sections of this book I’ve rewritten at least a dozen times since I began it in March. Maybe more. I’ve completely reworked the beginning three times. “It’s not right,” I complain to the friend who, in a move that will one day get her canonized, puts up with me when I get like that. “Help!” I say to the Patient Agent, and lucky for me he does. If CODA was a sprint in an indoor Velodrome, fast, furious, and slick, Magical Bird Book is the Tour de France, harsh and almost unending and open to the elements.

Writing IS hard, sometimes it really doesn’t go right, and sometimes you need your coach to hand you a new bike. But metaphorical bleeding isn’t a reason to bitch, or give up. It’s a reason to keep going, and that reminder came at a great time for me.

So I didn’t – and won’t – stop. Yesterday, I reworked a section that has had me beating my head against the wall for weeks. I love it now. It’s not perfect, but it’s good. I can look at it now and say “you’re good, and I can make something great from you” and so I love it in that way it’s only possible to love imperfect things–for their potential. Today, I’m excited to get back to work, even if I know it still might not all be easy from now on. Half naked and skinless, finish the damn race. And win. Be a badass.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Books I’m reading…or not.

I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who needs to steer clear of certain kinds of book while writing.  During the CODA process, I had to give up sci-fi completely, and even a lot of other kinds of fiction written by people whose style stuck in my head too easily.  I wound up reading a lot of non-fiction, especially biographies and travel memoirs, and re-reading a lot of Terry Pratchett.  (I love the Discworld books, but the style was never going to infect me.  I’m totally incapable of bringing that level of funny.)  I celebrated finishing CODA by reading John M. Cusick’s excellent GIRL PARTS.*

Now, I’m writing two books at the same time.  One is a kind of companion novel to CODA, so all of the above still applies.  The other one means that I can’t re-read any of the fantasy series I love so much.  Including Narnia and Harry Potter.  My soul is crying.  If that’s not incentive to finish the book, I don’t know what is.

What I am/have been reading recently:  A lot of contemporary YA, in particular John Green’s amazing THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. (I don’t really need to link that, do I?  You all have a copy?  Good.)  Also, all the Bill Bryson travel memoirs I haven’t read yet (there aren’t many on that list), THE MASTER AND MARGARITA again to see if I understand more of what the hell is going on the second time around, and a few reference books on plot and style I dip in and out of.

It’s important to know and ready widely in your genre, but equally important to let yourself fall behind on that reading while you write.  You know, YOUR book.  The one that’s nothing like anyone else’s.  You can always catch up.

Mostly, though, I’m writing another book I want to read.

*And with a bottle of Bombay Sapphire.  The author made up a drinking game for me based on the book.  HA!

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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