Friday, July 19, 2013

A Quick FAQ About My New Job

I've gotten a lot of questions in the past few days, so am doing my best to briefly address them here. Obviously, it's been a time of busy transition and my priority has been helping to make the smoothest possible transition for my authors and their books, so if I was unable to respond personally to an email, tweet, post, or message, my apologies!

1. I know you're leaving HarperCollins, but where are you going again? To Storybird, a visual storytelling platform. There's more info about the change here, on the Storybird blog.

2. When is your last day? And when do you start at Storybird, and where will you be based? My last day is today (Friday, July 19th)! I start at Storybird in early August, and will be based in Brooklyn.

3. So if I send you an email today, will you still get it? Nope. My old HarperCollins email is shut down. (It's the end of an era!) If you're someone I accidentally omitted giving my new contact information to, my apologies! Please send me a private message via Facebook or Twitter, or leave a message in the comments here, and I'll follow up with you.

4. But wait! I sent my manuscript to you after an SCBWI Conference, and you haven't responded. What happens now? My excellent colleague, Editorial Assistant Alex Arnold, has generously agreed to read and respond to the conference submissions that I've left behind. It's going to take her awhile to catch up, though, so please extend your patience to her--as with any editor, submissions-reading is secondary to her daily responsibilities and the existing projects under her care. And, hey: similar hand-offs have been known to lead to very happy literary success before! Please also note that this is NOT an invitation to submit directly to Alex (like all editors at HarperCollins, she is closed to unsolicited submissions); she will only be reading and responding to the pile of submissions I handed over, not any future submissions. If you were meaning to submit but hadn't done so yet, I'm sorry--the offer has necessarily expired, now that I've left the company.

5. Speaking of SCBWI, will you still be at SCBWI-LA in August? Alas, no. I'll be starting my new job instead. But my super-fun and brilliant colleague, Executive Editor Claudia Gabel, will be stepping in for me, and she's already got a more exciting talk planned than I did, so you're in great hands!

6. I'm an agent who had a submission out with you--what now? I'm sorry if I didn't touch base with you before leaving. Any submissions that were with me can be resubmitted to a different HarperCollins editor, whomever you think might be the best fit. I did not hand-off any agented submissions to colleagues, as I presume that agents want to make their submissions decisions themselves.

7. Where are the submissions guidelines for Storybird? How can my agent and/or I send you a manuscript for consideration at your new job? Storybird works on an entirely different model than HarperCollins or any of the existing traditional publishing houses. I won't be acquiring projects in the way I've done previously, so there aren't submission guidelines to be had.

8. So, I've looked at the Storybird site and it's cool, but I don't really understand what you'll be doing there. That's probably because I'm not there yet, plus I'm the first person ever to hold this role at Storybird. As an editor of books, my job was to look at the existing story and see ways that it could be strengthened--but often even more important, was looking at the existing story to see what things weren't there yet, but maybe could or should be. That's part of why I'm going to Storybird--to help a really cool company continue to grow in all the ways it's already exciting, but also to help envision new developments and possibilities, and bring them into actuality. In other words, keep watching Storybird--there's much more to come!

9. Will you continue blogging? Well, some. As you have surely noticed, I'm not the type who blogs on a constant/regular schedule. But I imagine I'll keep it up in some form. And in the meanwhile, you can always find me on Twitter, where I'm much more present.

10. This is a big change. How are you feeling? Excessively grateful for the career I've had to-date, and the amazing relationships I have as a result. Understandably sad that I can't clone myself and continue working with my great colleagues and authors/illustrators at HarperCollins AND take this new opportunity. Intensely curious and excited to see what's ahead.

11. Storybird's all about art-inspired, visual storytelling, and this blog post's pretty bereft of images. You're right. Here you go. And here I go, too:

See you on the other side of this jump!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

News, Change, and a Tribute of Sorts

I have some news. You probably didnt see it coming. I didnt either, exactly. But I perhaps should have, because, as my author Kathryn Fitzmaurice taught me with her oh-so-wonderful middle grade novels, The Year the Swallows Came Early and Destiny, Rewritten, if we stay open and “expect the unexpected,” it allows us to embrace chance encounters that can lead us to, “something wonderful and different that [we] might not have thought of”—in short, toward thrilling new versions of ourselves.

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of change, but I am slowly learning that with the right attitude and the right decisions, transitions can feel a bit like this: one of Sarah Jane Wright’s perfect illustrations for A Christmas Goodnight—full of a gloriously expectant hopefulness on the horizon.

And horizons make for such vivid imagery, in art and in writing. They just stir something so evocative up in us as readers, you know? Like one of my favorite passages from S. J. Kincaid’s stellar Vortex, the sequel to Insignia, where, “Everything Tom had ever feared seemed to shrink for this instant as the universe expanded for him. He wished every single person on the planet could have this chance, just once, to see the horizon from above rather than from below. Maybe they’d all see that the universe didn’t end…but rather that this incredible, infinite stretch of possibilities existed beyond them.”

And speaking of horizons and possibilities—when I asked a long-time friend what he thought about the new possibility that had appeared on my horizon, he listened patiently to my lengthy pro/con list and then said simply, It depends. How willing are you to take a risk?” And right there and then, I pretty much knew what my choice would be, because Divergent and Tris and the remarkable Veronica Roth taught me that sometimes we simply have to “be brave” and jump, even if that means changing everything. Especially if that means changing everything. 

Bryan Bliss professes something similar, in what I hope will be one of your favorite new YA books of next summer, his superb 2014 debut, Meet Me Herethat sometimes you have to do the thing that scares you the most, and then embrace the transformation that follows, “In that moment, when your heart is ready to break out of your chest and you can barely breathe, that’s when you get a chance to live.”

“Strange but true,” (that’s the favorite observation/declaration of the protagonist of Molly B. Burnham’s hilarious and heart-warming illustrated middle grade debut (due out in 2015), Teddy Mars: Almost a World Record Breaker), you’re probably sensing a common theme to this blog post.

So what’s the big change? It’s that I’m leaving HarperCollins, after an incredible seven and a half years. I’m taking a side-step into a slightly different realm and heading over to Storybird, a visual storytelling platform, where I’ll be their Head of Editorial, focusing on creative strategy and product/program development. It’s a chance to use many of the skill sets that I’ve cultivated over the past decade in publishing, while also learning to think in exciting new ways about how technology, stories, and culture can intersect. And I’ll be working with an amazing and innovative team, which makes leaving my great HarperCollins colleagues a little less painful.
In Hilary T. Smith’s utterly gorgeous Wild Awake, the main character concludes that, “The universe, I realize, is full of little torches. Sometimes, for some reason, it’s your turn to carry one out of the fire—because the world needs it.” In a way, I hope thats what Ill be doing as I make this transition: carrying a torch from the world of publishing that I’ve known and loved into a new venture that’s full of excitement and possibility. Along the way, I’ll hopefully be uncovering new paths for story-makers and story-lovers and stories to connect and find each other. Because I am convinced that stories are one of the things we need most, as human beings in this world.  

As Bobbie Pyron wrote in her pitch-perfect, southern-tinged “new classic,” A Dog’s Way Home, “Most folks got a north star in their life—something that gives their life extra meaning.” I think for a lot of us who share this corner of the internet, one of our north stars is stories—because of the way they allow us to express ourselves and understand others, because of the way they connect people, because of the way they help us learn to live.

To all of you who have entrusted your words and art and stories to me, at conferences and via literary agents and even just through the simple tales we tell each other every day via Facebook and Twitter . . . thank you. To those of you (teachers, librarians, booksellers, parents, book bloggers, publishing industry pals, friends in the media, and fellow book-lovers of all sorts) who have worked to connect my authors/illustrators and their books to Real! Live! Readers!—I am intensely, endlessly grateful. And most of all, to the many authors and illustrators that I’ve worked with while at Harper, most especially those mentioned above—thank you for all you have taught me, and the ways you’ve inspired me as we’ve worked together. I will always consider myself lucky to have been one of the earliest fans of your books, and to have had the incredible privilege of watching your stories transform and take shape and then courageously go out into the world to find their readers.

And to everyone reading this: I hope you’ll all keep an eye on things over at Storybird. It’s going to be a thrill, and a lot of fun, and I’d love for you to come and be a part of it. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

VORTEX: An Editorial Love Story

(I don't blog much about my authors' books while they're in-progress toward publication. In part, this is out of respect for the writing/editing/revising/ publication process: a lot can change for a story as we work on it. It's also out of respect for readers—because I think it's mean to taunt you with tales of fantastic books you can't yet buy! Thus this series of publication-day "Editorial Love Story" posts was born: to celebrate the fact that, at long last, an author's book is out on shelves, and to offer a glimpse of each book's unique "making-of" story. I hope you'll enjoy and be inspired by this post, and that you'll soon have a chance to read this great book, or share it with a reader who might enjoy it!

Vortex (Insignia, #2)
The impossible was just the beginning. Now in their second year as superhuman government weapons-in-training at the Pentagonal Spire, Tom Raines and his friends are mid-level cadets in the elite combat corps known as the Intrasolar Forces. But as training intensifies and a moment arrives that could make or break his entire career, Tom’s loyalties are again put to the test.
Encouraged to betray his ideals and friendships for the sake of his country, Tom is convinced there must be another way. And the more aware he becomes of the corruption surrounding him, the more determined he becomes to fight it, even if he sabotages his own future in the process.

Drawn into a power struggle more dramatic than he has ever faced before, Tom stays a hyperintelligent step ahead of everyone, like the exceptional gamer he is—or so he believes. But when he learns that he and his friends have unwittingly made the most grievous error imaginable, Tom must find a way to outwit an enemy so nefarious that victory seems hopeless. Will his idealism and bravado cost him everything—and everyone that matters to him?

Filled with action and intelligence, camaraderie and humor, the second book in S.J. Kincaid’s futuristic World War III Insignia trilogy continues to explore fascinating and timely questions about power, politics, technology, loyalty, and friendship.

VORTEX is out today! Those of you who have already read the first book are surely celebrating; those of you who are new to the series have something wonderful in store for you. Just like the taglines ("Beyond The Impossible," and "The Impossible Was Just the Beginning") on her books, S. J. Kincaid has achieved the nearly impossible: she's written a second book in a series that's inarguably even stronger than the first.  And I'm not the only one who thinks so! The impossibly-hard-to-please Kirkus Reviews had this to say about VORTEX in a starred review: "Kincaid lays a lot down, twining her increasingly complex plot and characterizations with Tom’s growing awareness. Action fans, fear not: For all the deep thinking Tom and readers undertake, pace, adventure and fun are not compromised one whit. A surprisingly and satisfyingly rich middle volume.”

Shelley's books are masterful feats of imagination--and as an editor and as a reader alike, I am in awe of the way she so casually carries around entire galaxies in her mind! The INSIGNIA series is spot-on in its characterizations; phenomenally creative in its plotting and world-building, and startlingly vivid and alarming in its insights of how the near-future could unfold. INSIGNIA and VORTEX (and the prequel novella, ALLIES) are also some of the most genuinely humorous YA books in the market today, I think. Her characters are intensely real: full of the awkward mishaps, bumbling idiocies, and gleeful pranks of early teen life, but also acutely sensitive; occasionally flawed; deeply concerned with justice; and truly devoted to one another. In short, Tom and his comrades Vik, Wyatt, and Medusa, are characters that are so alive that I want nothing more than to be friends with them.

For the last year, as Shelley and I worked on the manuscript that would become VORTEX, Tom & Co have made me repeatedly laugh to the point of snorting/choking in coffee shops and on airplanes and at my desk and on the subway, much to the confusion and consternation of strangers sitting beside me. Each time a new chunk of the story, or a revision, would pop into my inbox, I'd find myself grinning with delight. You know that feeling, when you're a kid and it's the first day back at school after a long summer and you get the first glimpses of everyone you haven't seen in weeks and months? VORTEX is a little like that. It makes me bubble over with excitement and glee and the thrilling sensation of "Hey, look, it's all my friends! We finally get to hang out together again and I don't know what exactly what we'll be doing, or what all's going to happen, but I just know it is going to be SO MUCH FUN!" That Shelley can offer readers so much fun while also giving them profound geopolitical commentary and incredible plot twists and meaningful emotional development is just further proof that she's written a second novel that's deserving of rich praise and "favorite book" status.

So how can you help celebrate the publication of VORTEX? You can order a copy, for yourself or a sci-fi lover or gamer in your life (note: guys and girls both love this series), or request a copy at your local library. You can follow the author on Twitter (and wish her a happy book birthday!) or check out her website, or follow the series on Facebook. If you've read and enjoyed INSIGNIA, you can help spread the word to fellow readers by getting a copy into their hands (note: INSIGNIA is newly-available in paperback) or by sending them the link to the Browse Inside sample. You can download a copy of ALLIES, the prequel novella to the series if you haven't already done so. And this week, you can join other book lovers in the Epic Reads Re-Readathon of INSIGNIA in preparation for VORTEX--a great way not only to celebrate a fabulous book series but also to meet other avid readers--who knows, perhaps a friendship as great as Tom-Vik-Yuri-and-Wyatt's could emerge!

Happy book birthday to VORTEX, Shelley! Thank you for the "impossibly" wonderful INSIGNIA and VORTEX and ALLIES--the world of books is much richer for your stories and characters, and I feel so privileged to be a part of the process that brings them into the world!