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Merry Christmas and Publishing Industry Information

Because it’s Christmas, and I am working to finish a book, reading a ton of books for the Whitney Awards since I am one of the judges, and dealing with the holiday and children and snow, I am becoming quite the lazy blogger. Sorry.

I am happy to report that I am ready for Christmas. The presents are under the tree torturing my little people. We are still arguing the menu for our special family Christmas Eve dinner. Rae wants chinese chicken salad. Bing wants mac and cheese (which is soooo not going to happen), and I want bacon wrapped pork. I will win, because I’m the mom! (GO MOM POWER) Rae still thinks she has a fighting chance though. Christmas eve is traditionally candlight and the china, along with sparkling cider in crystal goblets and a small gift to be opened set out next to each plate. Because we live so far from our family, it’s just the five of us and I’ve come to appreciate the joy our little dinner gives me. Christmas day, we’ll drive up and join the extended family and get loud, eat too much and play video games until our eyes roll into the backs of our heads (well . . . everyone else will play games; I will be either reading or writing), but Christmas eve is reserved for just us. I can’t wait! We’re also planning on going to see the bedtime stories movie over the Christmas Break. It looks awesome!

Some interesting things are going on in the publishing world right now. One is the little bit of criticism the Newbery awards are getting this year (note: I am not the one being critical, merely reporting on the critiques of others) You can read that news flash here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/15/AR2008121503293.html?sub=AR

The summary of this article is that the Newbery winners might be too big a stretch for young minds and that the award is going to books catering to adults who like children’s books rather than to books catering to children. It goes on to say that perhaps the books are even turning children off to reading. Whether or not it is true, I can’t say, but I thought it was a good reminder for us authors to remember who our real audience is and to do what we can to write our best for that audience.

Another interesting aside is that Harperstudio and Borders have reached an agreement on the end of returns. For those of you who don’t know, the publishing industry has a bit of a quandary when it comes to ordering books and returning books. Publishing companies allow bookstores to order in as many books as they’d like and if those books don’t sell, those bookstores can return the books to the publisher. This model of business is rare, but allows bookstores to take chances on new product, new authors, new ideas.

Because of the returns policy, publishers are continually backed into a corner of economic and environmental strife. But because of the policy, many new authors who might get passed over, are given chances to sit on store shelves. You can read about the deal Borders made with Harperstudio here:

http://nathanbransford.blogspot.com/2008/12/harperstudio-and-borders-no-returns.html

Remember the Whitney awards nominations are only available to the end of the year. If you read a book that simply rocked your world, give that book a shout out with a nomination. You can nominate here:

http://www.whitneyawards.com/

And last but not least, if you’re an author and still hinting at things people might get you for Christmas, remember to mention the Storymaker writer’s conference. It’s the perfect last minute gift since it can all be done online. It is one of the best writer’s conferences I have ever attended, which is saying something since I’ve been to a lot. If you are looking to hone your skills, meet agents and editors, enter the first chapters contest, or make connections in the literary world, there is no place better than the here:

http://www.ldstorymakers.com/conference.html

Merry Christmas everyone. I hope you stay safe for the season, and that you feel nothing but love from those around you.

Random Writer stuff

First off: the farworld contest . . . . and the winner is: *all* of you who left a comment (now all those who didn’t leave a comment are crying in their Dr Pepper right now because they aren’t getting a book–and yes, I do know who commented before I posted this blog entry, so don’t go thinking you can slide in under my radar).

Jeff Savage has been an incredible friend to me over the years. He’s commisserated when commisserating was needed, kicked my backside when that was needed (though I hate it when he does that), and rejoices with me when I find success. He personally hand delivered my manuscript to his editor and has gone to bat for me more times than I can count.  I pretty much owe him any royalties I might gain from my upcoming release Eyes Like Mine  for all he’s done for me. It is for this reason I am buying all my commenters his book.

I bought a new TV (purchased on eBay for a screamin’ deal) so I can watch Heroes with better quality. With the new TV came an entertainment center (also bought on ebay, the deals keep screamin’) and with these new indulgences came the need to rearrange my living room. Now, anyone who has been in my house, knows that books are stuffed in every available spot (anyone who has been in my bedroom knows Darth Vader is stuffed in every available spot– a measure of my love for Mr Wright.)

The domino effect came into play here as I went from one bookshelf to another, rearranging in an order that makes sense only to me. The entire process took me a couple of days to complete. And I had an amazing epiphany. I own an entire bookcase of signed books by authors whom I not only admire, but count as my dearest friends. The process took a long time because I went through my books and read the messages left there especially for me from people I love.

Inside the jackets of these books were words of encouragement, gratitude, love, and admiration. There were private jokes and things that you had to be there for to think they were funny. I walked away from the experience humbled to know that not only do I call these people my friends, but they call me theirs.

These are the people I call when I get trapped on a bus for three hours with a bunch of eighth graders. These are the people who know me well enough to dub the writer’s insecurity disease Julie Wrightus. These people are among the first to find out when I get rejected, when I get accepted, when I finish a new novel, when my kids lose their teeth.

There are days when I am genuinely sorry I dared to step up and be a writer. There are days when I wonder what it would be like to go back, forget it all, and learn how to cook like normal moms do. But then I shudder. What fool would want to go back and lose so many friends? My kids are okay with days where dad is busy and mom has to cook. But I wouldn’t be okay without those people whose names sit on my bookshelf.  I wouldn’t be okay without the friends I’ve made through conferences and the internet as a direct result of my decision to write.

Thanks guys. All of you!

The Butcher

So my author friends struck up a conversation on the woes of abridged audio books.  I’ve heard them whine whine whine about this before, but never paid attention. After all . . . I’ve never had an audio book, and I feel they should be grateful to have something so cool.

Except now things are a little different. I am slated for an audio book for the novel, Eyes Like Mine, coming out in February. I am so wicked thrilled to have an audio book. I grin stupidly every time I think about it.

The thing is . . . it’s abridged.  The book is just over 90,000 words. The abridged version–45,000 words.

Yeah. My math isn’t so hot, but even *I* know that means HALF. Yes, gentle readers, half is a lot of words. And then once I cut all those words out, I have to try to piece it back together in some way that makes sense, with a logical flow of plot development and proper character depth and motivation. I owe all my friends chocolate and apologies. How do you cut a book in half and expect it to be the same?

It’s like the baby brought before King Solomon.  No good mother wants to see her child chopped in half. No good author wants to see their book butchered, and worse–have to be the one doing the butchering.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m still excited about the audio book. It’s the pain I’m afraid of. I determined I’d better get started soon because I have the sneaking feeling this is going to take some serious time.

But I can’t start this week . . .  or next. Tomorrow, I am speaking at a youth conference and really should be working on my presentation so I don’t bore several hundred teenagers to sleep. And for the rest of this month I have to finish my work in progress just so I can say I did.  It may not be a good draft, but it’ll be a done draft. Good can always come later, right?

And the answer is . . .

I know the committee meets in the morning or early afternoon based on the times Kirk (my editor) calls me to give me news. So at 3:30 I realized it has to be a “no” and Kirk doesn’t know how to break the news to me.

Then an email popped up in my box.

It was from Kirk.

My hands got all sweaty and my arms went numb as I clicked the email open.

And the answer is . . .

I still don’t know.

How do you like that? Kirk said the committee was going slow and he’d likely have an answer for me tomorrow. Is the suspense killing you guys as much as it’s killing me? 

Yeah . . . I didn’t think so.

Regardless of the answer, it’ll be a relief to put me out of my misery.

In the mean time, I need a new laptop. Anyone have suggestions or cautions on laptops they just love and can’t live without, or ones they hate and would never deign to touch again? I need an *inexpensive* laptop, so don’t go telling me about the latest cool costs-me-one-of-my-kids laptops. I would prefer one that docks or at least lets me hook up a full size keyboard and monitor to. The bane of writers everyone has finally found me–carpal tunnel.

Light! I can’t believe I still don’t know!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My Name in Lights

I was tagged for a meme by my dear friend Karen Hoover and I swear I will do the tag on my next post, but it’s late and I have a hard time being clever when I feel wiped out.

I just got back from speaking at a writer’s group in Ephraim. Talk about rolling out the red carpet! They had my name advertised on the town marquee, they fed me a fabulous dinner, they provided me with excellent conversation, they gave me a wicked cool gift basket and laughed at my jokes. What a great crowd. I had a blast.  Shirley Bahlmann had invited me to come speak to their group and am I ever glad I did! I’m tempted to move just so I could have a cool writer’s group like Shirley’s.

What was really awesome? I signed a lot of books, not the brand-new, never-been-read kind . . . but the worn, ragged-edged, crinkly-paper-from-being-around-a-bathtub kind.

There is a truly awe inspiring feeling that overcomes an author (well . . . this author anyway) to hold a worn out and much used book in your hands with a smiling fan standing in front of you asking you to sign it. The book is loved.  Every scuff and bent page is significant. The book is proof that somewhere along the way, this reader and this author had a communication open between them. Even though the author wrote those words months and sometimes years previously, and the reader read them months and sometimes years previously, and even though the author and reader had never met before this one moment, they understand something about one another.

When I sign the new books, it’s different. The reader hasn’t read the book yet. They don’t know if they like it or not yet. I don’t know if they’ll ever crack the spine (that sounds gruesome, doesn’t it . . . crack the spine?).

But a book that has been read and reread, I know that the reader has pieces of me fused into their hearts. I know that they like things similar to what I like. And when they ask me to sign a book that they obviously loved, they are saying that they feel I did my job well. It’s the best kind of pat on the back.

Yep . . . I love what I do. Thank you Ephraim!