Tag Archives: dreams come true

in which my book cover is revealed

Yesterday, my book cover and synopsis were released into the world slash internet. So as you can imagine I can think of little else.

The cover looks like this: ThisMonstrousThing hc c. finalJPG Pardon me while I make a high-pitched keening sound of joy.

Because really, isn’t it just great? I could go on for days about it, but for now, let me tell you the top ten things I love about my book cover:

  1. Dat clock tower. *shivers of happy*
  2. I love that it could conceivably be a cover for Frankenstein. If you changed the title and author obviously. The tagline can stay.
  3. I love how it’s a little black and white and that lightning is a nice callback to the classic Boris Karloff Frankenstein. You know, the version most people think of when they think of Frankenstein. Unless you are thinking of this Frankenstein.
  4. So this is a book about two brothers. BUT WHICH BROTHER IS THAT ON THE COVER!? Is it the doctor brother, or the creature brother? AND WHICH OF THEM IS THE MONSTROUS THING? Ambiguity FTW.
  5. I freaking love the tagline and how it’s placed between the title, even though my mom keeps being a pest and calling it “This Alive Monstrous Dead Thing Alive Again” like it is one whole title. Moms. Sheesh.
  6. IT HAS MY NAME ON IT OMG A BOOK IS GOING TO HAVE MY NAME ON IT
  7. It’s so spooky and rainy and atmospheric and Gothic and this book is all of those things.
  8. The European architecture in the back! Did I mention this book takes place in Switzerland? Because that looks like Switzerland to me.
  9. That red sky is loooovely.
  10. IT IS THE COVER OF MY BOOK *faints*

With the cover was also released the official synopsis and it is truly excellent and I am so excited to share with people more than just “steampunk Frankenstein”. BUT I know it’s a lot of words. I don’t blame you if you don’t read it. If you found yourself thinking, “I’d really like to know what this book is about, but don’t want to go to the trouble of actually reading all those words about it!”

Don’t worry–I saw you coming, and did an illustrated version just for you. Fair warning, I am embarrassingly bad artist. Maybe that will entice you even more to check out my illustrated synopsis.

So click here to see the illustrated synopsis of This Monstrous Thing! It is pretty excellent, if I do say so myself. And also the result of a lot of boredom during a lot of snow days.

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The Road Thus Far: Champagne Problems

I haven’t blogged in a while, and I’m doing it now because a) I am trapped inside by a post apocalyptic snowstorm, and b) I have a novel I should be writing but am stuck on.

So it has now been eight months since I signed my book deal for my debut novel. In that time, I have learned a lot. Mostly that if I can worry about it, I will. I worry about everything associated with publishing, usually irrationally and in maddening excess.

That has been the biggest lesson of debuting so far: You will worry about everything.

You will worry about plot choices you made. You will worry about setting choices you made. You will worry about the words you used in describing these plot and setting choices. You will worry about how you spelled your characters’ names. You will worry that your book isn’t getting enough marketing attention. You’ll worry your book is getting too much. You’ll worry no one will read it. You’ll worry everyone will. Everything that once made sense when it was just you and your manuscript on your own will be thrown into sharp relief and called into question. You will worry this is a fluke and you will never sell another novel. You will worry your book is actually terrible and everyone who has read it and told you they loved it was on drugs. You will worry about the cruel and profanity-laden reviews people will leave for you on Goodreads. You will worry about the equally cruel but less profanity laden reviews you will get in review journals.

You will worry about things you did not know it was possible to worry about. You will worry about everything

And it will probably drive you crazy.

These, my friends, are what I now call champagne problems.

The other week, I was having lunch/writing date with two author friends of mine. We were talking about the sort of things authors talk about when they get together—advances, marketing, covers, editors. Or rather, what happens when your advance is smaller than you expected, when you don’t get the marketing plan you wanted, when your cover isn’t good, when your editor just stops responding.

And then one of them—much smarter than me—said, “Aren’t these lucky problems to have?”

Champagne problems. Luxurious and lucky problems that come with having amazing things happen to you.

But you, as the debut author, will still worry irrationally and constantly about them. And that’s sort of weird gift in a way too, because it means this matters to you. This matters a lot. And it is a champagne problem indeed to have something that matters enough to worry that much1.

  1. Maybe I am writing things blog post to you, the audience, or maybe I am writing a weird letter to self. Who knows?
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in which I travel to Switzerland

Hullo, I have returned! Did you miss me? Or maybe the more appropriate question should be, did you notice I was gone?

If you follow me on any other social media or know me at all in real life, you will recall that I spent that last few weeks of blissful Alpine joy in Switzerland.

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My long-suffering roommate Marx and I wanted to celebrate the completion of our respective graduate degrees, and Marx had some well-placed connections to free lodging there so we ended up spending a couple of weeks traveling from one end of the country to the other.

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Switzerland is great, my friends—natural, rustic beauty like you can’t process and everything’s so freaking quaint it looks like Disneyland, but real!—but more than that, traveling is great. I haven’t been on a trip like this, with just me and a passport and a backpack—since I lived in England. And it reminded me how utterly sensational it is to go somewhere new and experience new places and people who don’t speak the same language as you or share the same culture or life experiences or view from their backdoor.

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I chose this picture with me in it just to prove I did not Google “Gorgeous pictures of Switzerland” and then paste them here.

Travel wrap up blogs are always the hardest for me to write. Mostly because traveling is a tremendous experience. It fills you up and overwhelms you with the vastness of everything. There should be a million things to say, but instead I sit down to write and all I can think to say about Switzerland is the same things I was saying while I was there, which can mostly be summarized as “HOLY CRAP LOOK AT THOSE MOUNTAINS. LOOK AT MORE MOUNTAINS! AND THAT COW IS WEARING A BELL!”

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So Switzerland. It was sensational. We saw Zurich, Lucerne, Berne, Gruyere, Schynige Platte, Lauterbrunnen, Murren, Montreux, Laussane, Geneva1, and a host of other peaks, valleys, and scenic overlooks in between. Lots of hiking. Lots of train and cable car and cogwheel railroad riding. Lots of cheese and chocolate eating. Lots of ogling the Alps and meandering through countryside and struggling to process the beauty and listening to the cows jingle like wind chimes.

And now we return to reality2.

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  1. Stay tuned for a coming photo essay/sort of normal essay/basically a blog post about Geneva, which is the city where my novel is set and where Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, the book upon which mine is based.
  2. Sorry for all the pictures3.
  3. I am not sorry.
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in which I smell like an adult woman

When I was in high school, I had an iconic woman in my life who worked with our high school drama department. I thought she was basically greatest person on earth1. She frightened me a little the first time I met her, as all people worth knowing do, and she was smart, practical, a little sassy, and always looked like a million bucks. Seriously, immaculate. And, as a result of her doing a lot of costume work for us that put me in close proximity to her as she pinned up dresses and tunics and once a weird giraffe costume, I knew for a fact that she also smelled great. Like seriously the best smelling person I’d ever met. I finally asked her what her secret was. How do you go through life with such an amazing aroma wafting off you?

Perfume, she told me. My idol wore perfume. This blew my mind in a way it should not have, and I thought to myself, Successful iconic women must wear perfume. In that moment, the two became inexplicably intertwined.

I should preface this by explaining that I was raised by a low-maintenance woman whose idea of getting dressed up was putting on mascara and matching socks, so normal woman things like wearing makeup and nail polish and pulling hairs out of your eyebrows never occurred to me as things people did. Perfume was not a word in my vocabulary until this day I realized maybe people did not naturally smell amazing, but actually had some help2.

“It’s Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue,” my idol told me, and I nodded like I knew perfume came in more than one kind before just that moment.

So the next time my mom took me to the department store to buy jeans3 I snuck over to the cosmetics section. It was a frightening place—all those makeup counters and giant faces printed on display stands and strange beauty devices that looked like medieval torture implements and women in black with very intense painted-on eyes. But I forged through this strange land, located that little blue box4 of Dolce and Gabbana perfume with every intention to buy it and smell as beautiful as my idol.

Except I didn’t realize until that moment that perfume was expensive. That one bottle was more money than I was spending on anything as a teenager. More money than I spent on my prom dress. Probably more money than I’d spent all year combined. I gingerly put the bottle back and resigned myself to giving up that dream of smelling like a beautiful, successful adult woman.

But then I put a squirt from the tester bottle on my wrist and sniffed. It smelled so good, and I just wanted it, in a way I had never wanted anything that wasn’t books or theater tickets. The smell that to me was growing up and being something, someone worth looking up to. Being someone I could admire and be proud of.

So right then and there, I made a vow. I would come back for this perfume when I had done something worth smelling that good.

I don’t remember how many times since then I have snuck into department stores to spritz myself with testers and then run away before anyone figured out I wasn’t going to buy it, or how many knock off bottles of this perfume I purchased at sketchy European markets, or when the vow I made morphed into “I will buy this perfume with the money from my first book advance.” But somewhere along the way, I promised myself that with the money from my first book sale, whenever that came or however much it was, I would buy myself a bottle of this grown up, successful woman perfume.

Friday night, Marx and I went to Macy’s.

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There it is! The little blue box, and inside that box is a little blue bottle! And in spite of the fact that I look like I am going to eat it, I did not5! It is mine and I am wearing it now and even though it still seems like an exorbitant amount to pay for a bottle of perfume the size of my fist, it feels like a weird milestone. In book life, and adult life, and smelling-good life6. One step closer to being like the people I admire.

  1. She’s still pretty high on my list.
  2. I’m guessing this is about the point in the story where you are starting to wonder to yourself, “Where’s this going, Kenz?” Hang in there.
  3. I cannot emphasize how low maintenance we are.
  4. Most magical things come in blue boxes.
  5. Though if it tastes as good as it smells, I would.
  6. Yes, I am wearing it right now and yes, I do keep smelling myself. And I smell GREAT.
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The Road Thus Far: Turning in the Book

Hello, I’m back, and trying something new. I’ve been thinking a lot about how when I was a pre-book deal writer, I was always curious about what happens between the ‘being offered the book deal’ and the ‘seeing shiny new hardcover on bookstore shelf’. The whole process seems very secret, but really it’s not! Well some things are, but mostly I think what happens should be talked about rather than shrouded in mystery. So this is a start of a new series I’m calling The Road Thus Far, in which I will chronicle with as much honesty and transparency as I am able the process of getting a debut novel published by a large house. Feel free to ask questions in comments, and I will do my best to answer them!

So, first and foremost in today’s publishing-related news, I turned in my book1!

It has happened! After editing like mad since my book sold in June, the final manuscript is sitting in my editor’s inbox! And while the journey is far from over, the manuscript itself is now basically out of my hands2 and will soon be off to people who will make it more book-shaped and do things with it that I couldn’t do by myself, like inserting commas in the right places and spelling laboratory correctly3.

Don’t worry: I’ve already thought of at least five things I should have done differently. And it’s only been a few hours since I turned it in. 

This was essentially my last chance to change anything with the manuscript. Okay, sure, there will be copy editing changes because I’m a nightmare of a grammarian who did not realize until a few months ago that suit and soot are two different words, and as I’m reading over those, I will probably find some sentence I just can’t stand and beg them to let me rewrite it, but really the big stuff is now solid and fixed. And after tinkering with this book for basically a year and a half, this is terrifying.

Because what if I’m wrong? What if there were better choices for the characters, or more realistic turns for the plot? What if my world-building just makes no sense and I never realized it? What if my writing is interchangeable with that of a third grader? Or what if my writing is actually worse, because most third graders know the difference between soot and suit, don’t they? And I know you have to trust your editor, trust your agent, trust your critique partners who would have told you long ago if these things sucked. But those voices are so quiet compared to the ones in my head that tell me I have done everything wrong and will probably regret letting other people read this weird thing I wrote. It is so hard to trust myself, and almost harder now that I know people are going to be reading it at the end of all this.

Because really, books are never done, are they? We could all keep tinkering with our manuscripts for the rest of our lives4. So is this version I’ve ended up with really the one that I want to put out into the world?

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Some celebratory coloring after I turned in the book.

For a long time, I told myself the lie that as soon as I got a book deal, I would feel like a Real Writer. Maybe even (gasp!) an author. All my anxiety would go away and I would feel confident in my skills and the choices I made for my book. Spoiler alert—that didn’t happen. In fact, sometimes I feel like more of a fraud now because I have tricked everyone into thinking I’m good enough to be published when I’m really not. As a writer, I don’t feel any different than I did the night before I got my book deal, or the week, or even the month. I don’t feel competent or qualified. Writing is still hard, and still makes me anxious, except now I think about other people reading this thing that is hard and anxious for me. And then I want to throw up.

But something sort of remarkable also happened during this process of sweating out my final draft. Somewhere, in the delirious Diet Coke-fueled haze that comes with doing final edits on your debut novel, I started to feel okay about what I’ve written, and started to remember why I’d written it in the first place. I started to love my characters again, and thinking things like, “If people don’t like these choices I made, who cares? I like them!” There were a few places I actually felt good about what I had written. And even one moment when I thought, “Hot damn, some genius wrote this!” Though admittedly, when I thought that, I was reading the Frankenstein quotations that appear in the manuscript rather than something I had actually written. But still.

And then these stupid little things keep happening that send me into fits of delirious joy, things like my editor sending me the flap copy that will go on the inside of the book jacket, and asking me to write my bio, and giving me the name of the person who will be designing my book. These little things that didn’t happen when writing was just me, my computer, and my anxiety. And as frightened as I am to release this monstrous thing I have created into the world, it is infinitely more exciting, and I am trying not to run from it and instead let myself enjoy it.

Have questions about my road to publication thus far, or what happens to a debut novel after it sells? Leave them in the comments! Just please don’t ask a question that requires me to answer with the words suit, soot, or laboratory.

  1. I feel like I need to admit that I am actually writing this days before I turn in said book, though by the time it hits the blog, it will have actually happened. But I do sort of feel like I’m taunting myself by writing those words without actually having accomplished them yet.
  2. Unless something went horribly wrong and my editor hates all the changes I made.
  3. Which, in spite of the fact that I’ve been writing a Frankenstein book for a year and a half, I still can’t do.
  4. And some of us do. I’m looking at you, Tolkien.
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in which your book deal questions are answered

It has now been two weeks since my book sold. One week since I announced it to the wide world. In that week since, I have been reminded that I have both the best people in my life and am part of the best community. So thank you to all you friends and strangers who were excited for me and made my big news impossibly bigger.

In the last week, I’ve discovered that people have a lot of the same questions after you tell them you just sold a book. So I decided to compile my answers all in one convenient place. A book deal FAQ, as it were.

Hopefully all your questions are answered here, and if not, leave them in comments!

 

What’s your book called?

Apparently a lot of people missed this. It’s called THE SHADOW BOYS ARE BREAKING. This title is subject to change, as all titles are, but for now, this is it’s name.

 

Can I buy it now?

I know, I want it right now too! But alas—it doesn’t come out until next fall (as in 2015).

 

Ugh why does it take so long?!

Funnily enough, my book is actually coming out really fast in terms of a typical publishing timeline. Right now at my publishing job, we are working on books that won’t come out until 2017. Publishing takes a long time. Books are made up of a lot of pieces and it takes a lot of time for all those pieces to come together.

 

Speaking of your day job, are you going to quit it?

Aw that’s cute. In spite of Suzanne Collins and JK Rowling setting examples otherwise, not all children’s authors are rolling in the dough. Someday I would love to quit my day job and write full time, but today is not that day, because Boston is expensive and student loans are building at my back and I have to support my Diet Coke habit. So no, I’m not quitting my job, both for monetary reasons and because I really like my job. Jobs. Both of them.

 

What’s the cover going to look like?

I have no idea! Authors really don’t have control over that. But all of Katherine Tegen’s books have such lovely covers, I can’t imagine it will be anything less than extraordinary.

 

Um, why are you not publishing under your real name?

I’ve been a little surprised by how many people have been shocked and affronted over my decision to publish under a different name than the one that appears on my driver’s license. Turns out my last name has a lot of passionate defenders.

So here’s the deal about this—first of all, Mackenzi Lee is my real name. It is just my real name with the last bit hacked off. As previously discussed, my last name is long and intimidating, and after focus grouping it for over twenty years, I’ve discovered that most people’s initial reaction to my last name is panic. And I don’t want people panicking when they see the cover of my book. It is also very important to me as an author to be easy to find, and while many of you might think my last name is lovely and charming, try spelling it out in the nonexistent Goodreads search engine feature after only briefly glancing at it or hearing it said once in passing. I promise you will end up just banging your fist on the keyboard. That’s sometimes what I end up doing. So the dissection of my name is something I have thought long and hard about. It is not a snap decision. It was not decided by my agent or my editor or my publisher. It is not a rejection of my cultural heritage. It is instead a deliberate and well-thought out choice on my part in order to make me more easily accessible to the people who might someday read my book.

 

Wait, what happened to that other book you wrote?

What a good memory you have! So last summer, when I signed with my agent, it was not with this book. Back then, this book was only a few confused chapters saved in my file of ideas that might never get written. So yes, I did write another book before this one. It was about glass making in nineteenth-century Venice, and while I loved it dearly, and my agent loved it dearly, and even some editors loved it, it did not get published, and after sending it out to publishers for quite a while, it became time to, in the words of Elsa, let it go. There are so many factors that go into what books get published—it’s not always just which books are best—and for various reasons, this book did not get picked up. Maybe someday I’ll dig it back out and try again, but for now, it’s being left behind. Am I sad about this? Yeah, I guess, a little, but I also couldn’t have written SHADOW BOYS without writing that other book first.

 

So what’s book two going to be about?

It amuses and amazes me how many people have asked this. I’m too excited about book one (which is already written) to even think about book two (which is not). I don’t know what book two will be about. While I am definitely anxious about writing it, because I am a writer and thus plagued by irrational anxiety that I will never have another good idea again, I was calmed by wise words of encouragement from my agent: writing book two is like that scene in Harry Potter 3, where Harry knows he can conjure the patronus because he’s already done it before. So I am trying to be confident in my ability to conjure another patronus!

 

Is the whole world different now that you have a book deal?

You know, it really isn’t. True, I’ve been doing a lot of out-of-context grinning and some spontaneous dancing over the past two weeks, and probably will keep doing that for the next year and a half, but my life isn’t really that different than it was pre-book deal. It’s funny how things can change and still stay the same.

Have any other book deal questions? Leave them in comments! 

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In which the book deal is announced

If you have been around me at all this past week, you might have found yourself asking questions such as, “Why does Mackenzie seem so happy?” “Why has all her usual grump and cynicism been replaced by aggressive cheer?” “Why is she smiling at me like that? It’s creepy. Make her stop smiling at me like that.”

Well at long last, I can tell you! I can finally explain why I have spent the last week vomiting happiness on everyone I came in contact with.

Two words, friends: book deal.

Book. Deal.

I’ll let the official announcement from today’s Publisher’s Marketplace1 explain further:

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So this is happening! It is a real thing and not just the fever dream I have sustained for the past three years!

What does this mean for you, my lovely friends? Well, two things, really. One, you all are going to have to put up with my Frankenstein obsession for at least another year and a half, so prepare yourself for every conversation we have—online or off—to include some sort of tangential reference to Shelley. Two, and more importantly, it means that at some point next fall, you will be able to walk into your local independent bookstore, mosey over to the YA section, and pick up a shiny hard-backed edition of my incredibly weird post-modern revisionist steampunk-lite meta-gothic-horror Frankenstein reimagining2.

My novel is going to be published3!!! There are not enough exclamation points in the world to convey how I feel about this!! I have been dancing to myself all week, and now you all can dance with me!

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Friends, I am SO EXCITED. And even that is an understatement.

 

  1. Publisher’s Marketplace! I feel so fancy and legit!
  2. And at an undisclosed time after that, you will be able to buy ANOTHER book of mine. Because did you see—two book deal! That means I get to write another one!
  3. By, in case you missed it in the PM announcement, Katherine Tegen Books, a YA imprint of HarperCollins. You might have heard of them. They publish a little book called Divergent.

 

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in which some big things happen

I’ve had this post saved in my drafts for about a week labeled “Things I Should Probably Talk About.” Because I am often really good at writing about the weird little stories of no consequence that happen to me, but not always great at hitting the big things, and these last few weeks were chock full of big things.

So here are a few that I felt were worth talking about:

Big Thing #1: I finished my MFA!

Two weeks ago last Friday, I donned a funny looking hat, a wrinkled robe1 and a shroudy hoodish thing that made me feel a bit like a sorcerer, piled into a bus with four thousand of my closest friends and drove to the Bank of America Pavilion which, it turns out, is a terrible place to host anything when it is even remotely cold, and oh man, was it cold. Rainy and grey and the wind off the water was merciless. At one point, the girl I was sitting next to and I realized we could actually see our breath. In May. It was a cold, cold place to be forced to sit still on uncomfortable folding chairs for two hours while name after endless name was read off.

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But in spite of sounding very negative about the whole affair, it was a good time. Graduation ceremonies are a bit silly if you think about them too hard, mostly because of all the pomp and circumstance, but every time I’ve gone to one, I’ve had a genuine moment of pride and coolness when I got to walk up on stage, hear my name read, and get the little fake diploma. So overall the day was enjoyable. And my lovely family came in from Utah for the occasion, so I got to be with them. And, true to our usual classy selves, while everyone else went out to nice fancy dinners afterwards at places with multiple forks and cloth napkins, we went to my favorite eccentric diner and ordered a cookie sheet of onion rings.

So I’m now a master. I expect you all to refer to me as such from now on.

Big Thing #2: We went to Maine!

After a day of graduation and another of doing Boston things3, my family and I packed up our rental car and drove up to Bar Harbor, Maine, where we spent a very enjoyable week doing enjoyable and Maine-ish things, like hiking in Acadia, riding on boats, and tearing apart lobsters with our bare hands2. Maine was lovely and quiet and not anywhere near as cold as graduation, so we spent our time overdressed and marveling at how easy it was to breathe when the hiking trails are level and at a low elevation4.

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Maine was impossibly lovely, and after a rather arduous two years of graduate school, I really enjoyed a week of doing little to nothing that required any brain power5.

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Big Thing #3: I got a new job!

Okay, job is a relative term. It is an internship. But not just any internship. My dream internship, an internship I have been chasing and applying for over and over basically since I got to Boston. At last, they either got sick of reading my resume or decided I was actually maybe worth considering, because they hired me. I am over the moon about this news, and I feel really lucky to be putting my children’s lit knowledge to use so quickly after graduating from school.

And speaking of children’s lit things…

Big Thing #4: The PEN-New England Susan Bloom Discovery Award Night!

So as you may remember, a few months ago I went nuts with excitement over being one of the winners of the PEN-New England Susan Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award. Last week, there was an official awards ceremony, at which I was invited to read from my winning manuscript. And guys, it was amazing. I polled some friends who came to see if it was actually really that awesome or if I was biased because I was one of the guests of honor, but the general consensus seemed to be that it was genuinely awesome. It was amazing to be surrounded by so many people who were enthusiastic about children’s literature and me as a writer and my possible contribution to the field.

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Myself, Rebecca, and Pamela, this year’s three discoveries.

Everyone deserves the experience of being shepherded around a room full of witty, intelligent people who all tell you how much they love the art you are creating and the things you are doing, which was basically what the whole night was for me. Everyone also deserves the chance to be introduced by someone you really admire and hear them say nice things about your work, which I was also lucky enough to have happen when Lois Lowry introduced me and my manuscript. I did my best to not freak out when this happened.

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Miss Lowry and myself

After Lois’s very generous introduction, parts of which I am considering getting tattooed on my forehead, I got to read from my manuscript6. I am pleased to report that I did not lose my place, drop a page, say “Ingolstadt7” wrong, or pronounce “Frankenstein” the way they do in Young Frankenstein, which I was worried might happen since the MT and I spent the whole week in Maine quoting Young Frankenstein in honor of my impending reading. Then there was a lovely Q&A, where I got to talk very fast8 about Mary Shelley and how cool she was and about the Danny Boyle production of Frankenstein that inspired the whole thing9. And then I ate cookies and talked to more amazing people and showed off my Frankenstein tights and basically just had an amazing night. It was a fairly once in a lifetime experience that I will treasure and carry with me as a badge of courage as I go forward with my writing career.

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Rebecca, Susan (form whom the award is named), Cathie (head of the Simmons program) and me.

And those are the big things worth noting that have happened over the past few weeks. It’s been rather eventful here at Chateau de Lee, and I have enjoyed very much having a few weeks of good news and fun things. I’m bracing myself for real life to set back in again.

 

  1. Because some genius had the idea of making our gowns eco-friendly by crafting them out of recycled plastic bottles, meaning they couldn’t be ironed or else they would melt. To which I say, “A plague upon environmentalism!”
  2. The MT and I got very into naming the lobsters we met/ate. Or maybe that was just me and the MT indulged me. Whatever the case, over the course of the trip we met/ate Aloysius, Randall, Gob the Lob, Buster Bluth (because he was missing a claw), katniss, and Hannibal (because, it turns out, lobsters are cannibals).
  3. Such as treason, living free or dying, and protesting intolerable acts.
  4. Upon completing a particular hike, we were greeted by a sign boasting that we were now 520 feet above sea level. The Utahans, who live their lives at four thousand feet above sea level, were unimpressed.
  5. Though this doing nothing was interrupted by some strange and unexpected distractions, when I shall discuss in big thing number 3…
  6. This is the post modern revisionist steampunk Frankenstein book I have talked about a little bit here. In case you were wondering.
  7. Far and away the hardest and most German word in the manuscript.
  8. “Fast” meaning both briefly and at break neck speed, which I often do when I am nervous or excited, and I was definitely both.
  9. I also very nearly got set up on a date with Benedict Cumberbatch. Really.
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in which I win something cool

You may remember that, for me, January was the month from hell.

The climax of this month occurred on January 30, when I found myself at Simmons College at 11 pm, trying to print off an application for an award due two days later that I was certain I wouldn’t win, only to find that the printer I was printing on had no ink in it. I sat down in a chair with the intention of sending the document to a different printer, at which point the chair tipped over backwards. And suddenly I was flat on my back, feet straight up in the air, all the breath knocked out of me by my three tote bags landing on my stomach, half strangled by the strap of my book bag, and my laptop’s fall broken by my face.

And after a few choice four-letter words, I started to laugh/cry. It was so ridiculous I wasn’t sure which. And alone at Simmons at 11 pm on a Thursday night, I said to the empty room1, “Why am I even entering? I’m not going to win this award.”

Then last week, I was waiting for the T when I got a phone call.

“Hello?” I said.

“Hello,” said the voice on the other end. “I’m calling from the Pen New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award committee. Do you have a minute to talk?”

Yes. Yes I did have a minute to talk.

And that is the story of how I won the 2014 Pen New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award for my YA post-modern revisionist steampunk Frankenstein novel2.

You may not know what this award is, but it is awesome and I am wildly excited about it. Ecstatic, actually, might be the better word. Past winners have gone on to publish a variety of excellent children’s novels, many of which I have read and loved. Also Lois Lowry was a judge3. Lois Lowry. Like The Giver. That Lois Lowry.

So I guess I am now an emerging voice in children’s and young adult literature? Or something? Whatever the case, I’m so pleased. Thank you to the committee who chose me! And thanks to everyone who has listened to me vent about this book or brainstormed with me or sat there while I brainstormed at them or gave me chocolate when I was unhappy about it or gave me chocolate when I was happy about it or who nodded when I spouted random Frankenstein facts at them or looked at my Pinterest board for the novel4.

Guys. I am SO excited.

 

  1. Like a crazy person.
  2. The name of which is now out in the world, as is my actual last name.
  3. LOIS FREAKING LOWRY read something I wrote! And apparently liked it!
  4. The Pinterest board may be better than the actual novel.
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in which I meet my heroes

When I was a kid, I really loved books, and I really hated math.

Neither of those things have changed.

Another thing that hasn’t changed is my deep and abiding adoration of a picture book called Math Curse. It is a brilliant book that I loved as a kid and love more as an adult.1

So a couple weeks ago, when Milton asked me if I wanted to have coffee with her and the author of Math Curse, I said, “Is a Fibonacci Sequence created by adding the two previous numbers?”

The answer was yes. Yes I would like to have coffee with Jon Scieszka2.

On Saturday, Milton and I waited in the Sheraton Starbucks. We were both a little nervous. I had no idea what sort of person Mr. Scieszka would be. Did he, icon of children’s literature, really have the time to meet with us? The phrase “Never meet your heroes” kept running through my head.

But then Jon arrived. He sat down with us, and we talked for about an hour about children’s books, literacy, gender, and writing. This guy  basically changed the face of picture books and here he was, sitting in a Starbucks with two grad students, telling us stories about Mo Willems and Jon Klassen and treating our opinions and ideas as though they were just as valid and intelligent as his.

Milton and I were both impressively articulate and kept our cool, but I think both of our internal monologues looked something like this:

try this

It was an amazing conversation with an amazing guy, and one of those “aha!” moments that affirmed yet again I am in the right field. I don’t think I’m ever going to change children’s literature the way Jon Scieszka did, but someday I hope I can return this favor and sit down with an aspiring author in a hotel Starbucks and tell them everything they need to hear.

And then I will sign their book with a math equation. The same way Jon did for me.

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  1. Also I’m pretty sure there were a few questions on the SAT that I got right specifically because of Math Curse.
  2. Mr. Scieszka is also the author of The Stinky Cheeseman and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, among other dark and hilarious books. His new book, Battle Bunny, is sort of brilliant. He’s one of the rare children’s authors who writes books kids actually want to read.
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