Baby Author Me

Baby Author Me, Writer Interviews, Writing Tips

Lessons for Baby Author Me — Robin Kirk


No Comments

Today I’m thrilled to welcome Robin Kirk to the ‘Baby Author Me’ hot seat. Robin is the author of numerous books, including The Bond, first in the Pentaklon trilogy (Blue Crow Books 2018), More Terrible Than Death: Massacres, Drugs and America’s War in Colombia (PublicAffairs) and The Monkey’s Paw: New Chronicles from Peru (University of Massachusetts Press). She coedits the The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics (Duke University) and is an editor of Duke University Press’s World Readers series.

Welcome, Robin! As regular readers will know, the BABY AUTHOR ME series gives authors the chance to look back in time and give some much-needed advice to their ‘Baby Author’ selves. Today Robin will be focusing on the dreaded…launch party! Take it away, Robin:

ROBIN: I was the kind of kid—say between 6 and a gazillion years old—who would immediately hide when the doorbell rang. I vividly remember a group of lovely carolers arriving at my childhood house and me cowering in the basement, as if they’d specifically come to render me as their Christmas goose.

Parties were and are excruciating. I can speak in public, but only after several apprentice-ship years and never when the topic is me. If the topic is some injustice or a fascinating piece of research I want to share, I am all in.

Just not when I am the center of attention.

So middle school-1
Can you guess which one is Robin?

I would loathe a surprise birthday party (not that anyone has ever dared schedule one) because I know exactly what would happen. My face would set in a rictus of appreciation and hilarity, and I would wonder if all of those people gathered for fun realized what an un-fun person I am. Would my closely guarded un-fun-ness be put on excruciating display? Had they come to this place by mistake, for another, more worthy person?

I bring all of these feelings to book launches. For days, I experience a low, thrumming dread. Most recently, when The Bond launch had to be cancelled because of weather, I was secretly elated. I know this is the author’s job or duty or responsibility. I’m all for all the rest of marketing—interviews, social media, whatever—but me as the center of attention?

I’d rather be launched out of a cannon.

But a dear friend, who noticed the pallor and the sweats as I prepared for the rescheduled release of The Bond, helped me think about the book signing in another way. Writing a book is hard. Really hard. Exceptionally, devastatingly, wrenchingly hard. And that’s not even including publication. If you publish a book, an honest-to-Betsy book, you have kind of won a personal Powerball.

Not that this pays, but you know what I mean.

Allow your friends to celebrate. Not you, mind you. This astonishing achievement. You’ve written that glorious thing, A BOOK. The book is the centerpiece, not you.

COVER-the BOND-300ppi-1

The Bond launch was winding down when two teens approached to ask me about one of the characters. I was taken aback. A voice in my head whispered, “How on earth do they know about 12?” 12 is my mutant battledog, a combination of Iorek from The Golden Compass, The Incredible Journey animals, and every bad pet I’ve ever cared for (not a few). Then I realized: they’d read my story. They’d liked my story. In some way, I’d managed to conjure 12 from computer clicks and countless cups of coffee. 12 was real now. She’s escaped my hard drive and was pacing around in the heads of these teens, scaring the bejeesus out of them.

It was lovely. It was the best. Not because of me, mind you. But because I’d made something, a character and a story, that is now a part of other people’s lives.

I’m still trepidatious about launches. But I’m also a little eager. I’m craving that sparkle in the eyes of a young reader. I’m craving the little scare I hope they get, and a little of the adventure, and a lot of hope. That’s what’s the center of attention at a book launch: hope, the hope that’s in books and the hope that’s in the readers, especially the young ones, who love them.

KIM: Thanks so much for stopping by, Robin! I’m feeling better about my next book launch already 🙂 Phew!

To find out more about Robin Kirk, visit her online at robinkirk.com, or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Baby Author Me, Writer Interviews, Writing Tips

Lessons for Baby Author Me — Cynthia Reeg


1 Comment

Cynthia Reeg, welcome to the blog! Cynthia is the author of the spooky middle grade novels FROM THE GRAVE and INTO THE SHADOWLANDS.

First things first, Cynthia, enjoy a complimentary coffee on the house. Now sit back…close your eyes and…step inside the Baby Author Me Time Machine.

We’re heading all the way back to the day after you sold your first book. Remember the joy, the celebrations with friends, the cake? Oh, so much cake. If only you had known the trials and tribulations to come.

Now imagine that you could sit down with Baby Author You and offer her some sage advice. What do you wish you would have known? What would you have absolutely avoided? What did you spend weeks worrying about that ended up being no big deal?

The wee Baby Authors of the world need your words of wisdom. So let’s dive in!

What would you tell Baby Author You about…

Book promotion: It’s pretty much non-stop from the moment you become a serious writer. Yep, even before there is a book! You need to create a website and start connecting with authors, teachers, librarians, editors, and agents on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. You need to join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators to meet all of the people mentioned above—as well as learn how to both write and promote your book. Once you do have a contract, be sure to join an authors’ group—I was in the Sweet Sixteens debut group and am now part of the Spooky Middle Grade authors. In these groups, you’ll share marketing info and join together for promotional ventures like Skype visits, conference panels, book giveaways, and so much more. Be creative with your promotions. Look for local tie-ins. Make yourself known to local bookstores and libraries. Get the word out about school visits. Do your best but don’t wear yourself out because you need to keep writing!

SkypePromo (2)

Book blurbs: As I mentioned above, I joined numerous groups along the way, so when it was time to ask for book blurbs, I was fortunate to be in good company. Many of my Sweet Sixteen friends offered lovely blurbs and reviews. Remember though, be generous with your time and reviews/blurbs of others books as well. It’s true that in giving we receive. I did also reach out to a couple of celebrity authors who I met for blurbs, but those didn’t pan out. Your publisher may also solicit blurbs for you, but I’d advise you to be an advocate for yourself on garnering book blurbs. I don’t know that the blurbs are instrumental in bumping up sales, but they are lovely on (and perhaps) inside your book for browsing readers. I also used one or two on bookmarks.

Writing first drafts: First drafts are like climbing a mountain. At first your idea is like the glorious peak you see in what seems the not-too-far distance and you set out with light feet (and speedy fingers.) But the more you hike, the steeper the mountain becomes. You get lost along the way numerous times and have to backtrack. You run out of water and energy and enthusiasm and you stumble across the skeletal remains of an earlier hiker (okay, so it was only a sickly cow. But you get the idea.) Somehow though—usually with the unending help/support/advice of your amazing critique group—you continue on, until the wind-blown summit is underfoot and you type “THE END.”

Whew!!! Your story is awesome! It’s unbelievable! It’s breathtaking … and then it’s time to start revising.

Words of advice: Be persistent. Believe in yourself but keep asking for help. Celebrate each milestone along the way.

Friends and family: I am probably one of the luckiest children’s authors I know in that I’ve had nothing but strong support and encouragement from so many family and friends. If your family isn’t supportive, look elsewhere for support. Carve out time for your writing. Find other children’s authors or close friends who realize how important this venture is to you. For me, writing is pretty much like breathing. I don’t know how I’d survive for long without it. Find a support group who understands that and it will make all the difference in helping you achieve your writing goals. Most of all—enjoy the journey!

Cynthia Reeg, an intrepid librarian, ventured from behind the book stacks to contend with quirky characters and delightful dilemmas in her very own picture books and middle grade novels. While she has had her share of worldly adventures—fishing for piranhas in the Amazon, climbing the Great Wall of China, and white water rafting in New Zealand—she grew up in the Midwest and now splits her time between Missouri and Florida. Cynthia enjoys tennis, hiking, reading, and hanging out with her family. For more information, visit www.cynthiareeg.com.

Twitter: @cynthiareeg

Facebook: @cynthiareegauthor

 

Baby Author Me, Writer Interviews, Writing Tips

Lessons for Baby Author Me — Jennifer Latham


1 Comment

Today, I am excited to welcome Jennifer Latham to the blog! She is the author of the YA novels Dreamland Burning and Scarlett Undercover

Now sit back and enjoy these words of wisdom from Jennifer Latham to her wee Baby Author Self. She may not have done it right the first time around, but maybe you can learn from her mistakes 😉 Over to you, Jen:

Hey you. Yeah, you—the one who’s been revising that manuscript for over a year, playing footsie with an editor who won’t even end up being the person you eventually work with.[1] Remember that time your last manuscript made it to acquisitions at Scholastic after a year of preliminary revisions over there? And remember how your agent called you after the meeting to tell you they’d passed?

That sucked, huh?

Well, here’s the thing: Scarlett Undercover is going to sell. And that does not suck at all. In fact, it’s pretty freaking amazing. But before you get all caught up in celebrating, I’m going to tell you a few things about how it’s going to be. And since you’re me, I’m not going to sugarcoat any of it because you’ll see right through me.

Ready?

Here goes.

1. You are going to feel like you have to build an amazing website and develop your brand and get fabulous swag and churn out clever Tweets in order to be a real author.

You do not.

In fact, you’ll realize very quickly that when it comes to brand building, you’re just not that into it. Yes, you’ll always feel a pinch of insecurity when you see the amazing stuff other authors do to promote their work. And yes, if you were to go ova-out and pour yourself into marketing with all your heart, you might possibly move the needle on sales a tiny bit. But overall, you will end up deciding that your time is best spent on making books. Because you, my dear, write at the speed of molasses in the pre-global warming Arctic Circle.

2. You will have many different editors. Two for Scarlett Undercover, in fact, and three for Dreamland Burning. Because the editing business is wicked hard and wears a whole lot of people out very quickly. But each of the lovely people you’ll work with will contribute something valuable to your manuscript. Just remember that they are no more infallible than you are, and that, in the end, your name’s the only one that ends up on the cover.

3. Which brings me to the next thing. Reviews.

You will read them and take all but the most over-the-top bonkers ones to heart. And that’s okay, because you are going to grow a thick hide and learn how to cope. And sometimes you’ll go read all the awful reviews you can find for books you LOVE, and you’ll feel better because there are a lot of readers out there and you can’t please everyone.

Dpq_75BU8AAI__R

4. You are going to hate school visits at first because you’ll know you’re terrible at them. Eventually, though, you’re going to figure out that historical fiction makes your light blink. And you’ll write a book about something you care about so deeply and think is so important that you will make yourself a better speaker. You will work and re-work that slideshow so that kids don’t fall asleep or pick their nose or text while you’re talking.[2] And, in the end, you will LOVE getting to spend time in schools.

5. People will always want to know what your process is, and you will eventually learn to say, “Hell if I know!” and have it be mostly true. You’ll be a hermit and shy away from critique groups, which is okay. You’ll say you hate drafting, but when you have a good couple of hours at it, you’ll know it’s a lie. You’ll end up liking that stupid Alphasmart that Ally Carter told you to try for, like, two years before you actually did. You’ll re-read and edit and stress over word choices too much.[3] You’ll feel selfish for not paying enough attention to your kids and frustrated that you don’t dedicate enough time to your work. And you’ll remind yourself over and over that it’s all good, that you’re a person and not a bot.

6. You will one day decide that there are three main things at which a writer can excel: plot, characters, and voice. Some people are good at one. Some are good at two. And a few assholes nail all three, which will make you jealous and give you potty mouth. So just be grateful you’ve got one in the bag and keeping working on the others.

7. Finally, here’s the real scoop: good writing is a combination of aptitude[4], hard work, and craft. You think you’re pretty hot stuff right now (or you will tomorrow when you find out Scarlett sold), but you’re about to learn that every manuscript is tough. Nothing in publishing is easy. You are not as good at craft as you thought, but craft is a thing that can be learned. So dig in, babe. Grab a laptop. Start typing. Because this is the only job you’ve ever really loved, and as long as you write today, you can always quit…

tomorrow.

[1] Note: I’m playing along here and pretending to be talking to myself on the night before I find out I’ve sold my first manuscript—even though it was such a bizarre, circuitous path that I don’t actually remember the moment I found out I was going to be published.

[2] This is a lie to keep you optimistic. You can’t stop them from texting.

[3] Please note previous comment about molasses, Arctic Circle, global warming, etc.

[4] As in, you have to be able to string words together coherently to have a chance at getting published

Wow…can I just say how much I LOVE the fact that Jennifer Latham included footnotes! Footnotes!!! Yes, that deserves all the exclamation points. Thanks so much for stopping by, Jen.

Jennifer Latham is a grown-up army brat with a soft spot for babies and poorly-behaved dogs. She’s written Scarlett Undercover, Dreamland Burning, and more unpublished manuscripts than she cares to admit. She lives in Tulsa with her husband, two daughters, and several of the aforementioned dogs.
Twitter & Instagram: @jenandapen