Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A New Look for Tallulah Falls

The brand-spanking-new paperback of Tallulah Falls hits the bookstore shelves this week! Check out the new cover—light and bright and beautiful. One of the reasons I’m glad to be published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books is that they take such care to make their books gorgeous. Between this and the fabulous hardcover design, I feel like one highly pampered author.
I just got back from a two-week tour around Scotland and Ireland, and am jet-lagged beyond belief. More on that later...

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Secret

Oddly enough this past week, it seems every blog I read or radio show I listened to had the same theme: What’s the secret to getting published? Miss Snark, The Rejecter, and a Q&A with author Francine Prose on NPR all fielded variations on this question from aspiring authors. The writer calling in to Ms. Prose seemed especially jaded: You can’t get published unless you know somebody!

Not true. I’m a slush pile success, myself. (For those of you not into publishing, the “slush pile” is the mountain of unsolicited queries and manuscripts that teeter in the offices of agents and editors--see pic at left. Slush piles are often dealt with by assistants, who read through quickly, pull the letters/manuscripts that they think will interest their bosses, and dump the rest with rejection letters). I didn’t have anyone pulling strings on my behalf with my agent-to-be; I simply wrote a query letter and sent it off. A few months later, she asked to see the manuscript of Tallulah Falls. The rest, as they say, was history.

But here's the rub: if sending the query was simple, the road leading up to it wasn’t. I had no idea, when I signed up for my very first writing class, that it would take me twelve years to get published. I had no idea that first I had to learn my craft, and then write a novel good enough to get noticed. I certainly had no clue that getting published takes an entirely different set of skills than writing the novel! Each step has been a new challenge and a new learning curve.

It’s easy to look back on it now, and counsel patience. But I remember how impatient I was. How convinced I was, at times, that you can’t get published unless you know someone! Which, translated, means: I’ll never get published!

But I did. And if you’re an aspiring author, you will, too. If you write well. Tell a good story. If you seek out good critique and are willing to learn from it. If you never rest on your laurels and always strive to improve. Because in the end, if you’re a writer, you’ll write. If your first novel doesn’t sell, you’ll write a second. A third. You’ll get better and better, and you’ll never stop writing.

If there’s a secret to getting published, that’s it.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Street Sense and Serendipity

I work every Saturday now. Which is OK with me, as it’s part of my Very Cool Schedule that allows me time during the week to write. Like most anything, though, there’s a downside, and it rolls around every year starting the first Saturday in May.

This is because Saturdays in a veterinary hospital are incompatible with watching the Kentucky Derby. Sigh.

Yesterday, I worked the “fourth doctor” shift. While 3 other veterinarians saw regularly scheduled appointments, I fielded walk-ins and emergencies with my fabulous partner-in-crime and one of the best certified vet techs in the world, Amber. (I’m not saying this just because I think she’ll read this. Amber kicks serious ass as a CVT, and not only that, she’s fierce on skis, a surfboard, or a bicycle, too. You see her on the road, all you’ll see is her dust). Yesterday was a typical Saturday—there's no end to the trouble critters get up to on the weekends—and so we’re bulldozing along from eight AM until three PM. Then we find ourselves looking around for our next emergency. What’s this? Nobody waiting to be seen. Five minutes until the next patient is expected. We haven’t had a chance to eat lunch yet, and…post time is 3:04.

Heat up the frozen tamale, grab a glass of water, race upstairs where the little TV lives. They're off! A colt named Hard Spun leads almost from the start. Actually pulling away from the field, too, just when most early speed sputters and fades. Rounding for home, and it looks like Hard Spun for sure, when out of nowhere charges a dark brown horse: Street Sense, coming from far, far back in the pack, 19th in a field of 20, then he turns it on and passes 18 horses in an eighth of a mile. Catches Hard Spun, and wins going away.

Can I just say? Damn.

Along with the excitement came a little bittersweet, too—because watching Street Sense’s walloping performance, I couldn’t help but remember the brilliant Derby run last year. And to realize again how much the world of racing lost when it lost the great, gallant Barbaro.

No time to reminisce much, though. The race over, we ran back downstairs, just as our next patient walked through the doors. Of all Derby Saturdays for the stars to align, I’m glad it was yesterday, because that was a helluva race.

And at the Preakness, two weeks from now…could the stars possibly align twice, for us as well as for a beautiful dark brown colt? We’ll see…