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Friday, July 31, 2009

Poetry Friday: Their fragrances and colors warmly mix

Good morning! This is my favorite part of summer--I'm not sick of it yet (although I'm starting to have yearnings for the crisp mornings of fall), and the bounty of the season is starting to, well, abound. Some of us here participate in a CSA (community supported agriculture) farmshare, and this week our baskets were literally overflowing with zucchinis, potatoes, cucumbers, cabbages, lemon thyme, beets, and more. In honor of the vegetables and herbs currently crowding my counters and refrigerator, I thought I'd post this great poem by Timothy Steele.

Herb Garden

"And these, small, unobserved . . . " —Janet Lewis

The lizard, an exemplar of the small,
Spreads fine, adhesive digits to perform
Vertical push-ups on a sunny wall;

Read the rest here.

This week's Poetry Friday is hosted at Poetry for Children.

Have a great weekend!
More soon--

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty

We've had some guests in the office for the last few days. We've established a professional development cadre of six external educators who work for us on a contract basis presenting PD for Capstone Interactive Library. The training sessions have been long days. One of the educators, Nate, a principal in Rice, Minnesota, promised his daughter that he'd bring home some books. She waited up until he got home at 10 the other night. Here's what he saw when he went in to wake her up the next morning.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Poetry Friday: like in water

I asked my coworker Julie for a theme for Poetry Friday today, to help me choose a poem. She and Christianne share an office in our Mankato location. (Christianne is back from maternity leave this week--yay!) Anyway, they're pretty isolated from the rest of the staff in the building, so today they're playing lots of music to help them finish off the week. When Julie suggested "music" as our theme this week, I found this great poem by Robert Creeley. It manages to conjure up summer and music and a lot of other things, all in just a few words.

Water Music

The words are a beautiful music.
The words bounce like in water.

. . .
Read the rest here.

This week's Poetry Friday is hosted at A Year of Reading.

Happy Birthday, Princess!

Today is Wonder Woman’s birthday! Well, actually it’s Lynda Carter’s birthday. But she was Wonder Woman, right? Because of her TV show, every young girl and boy in America knew about those bullet-repelling bracelets and the lasso of truth. The real DC Wonder Woman made her debut in the 40s, along with her Justice League buddies Superman and Batman.

I’m thinking a lot about Wonder Woman these days because, starting in January 2010, we will be introducing her to a whole new generation of kids as part of our DC Super Heroes chapter books. The books are in final edit and the new covers have just been finished. Wonder Woman – Princess Diana of the Amazons. She’s strong, she’s fearless, and she’s intelligent. Google created a new logo to celebrate this year's Comic-con, and it includes Wonder Woman. Why? Because she’s an icon for the 21st Century. She practically invented girl power.

And those bracelets are still working!

Meg in Mankato

It doesn’t matter if you are a tween, a teen, or an adult, when you read a Meg Cabot book (or series), you feel like she’s reading your mind. Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls. The Princess Diaries. The Queen of Babble. Meg Cabot relates to women of all ages.

I (along with fellow editor Julie Gassman) was lucky enough to see Meg Cabot speak in Mankato, Minnesota, this week. As Meg talked about her books, I couldn’t help but feel like I was listening to my sister or best friend. She was funny, relatable, and honest. It’s easy to see why her books are so popular. Meg Cabot gets it. And finding “it” is not easy in the book publishing world—especially with the teen set.

Meg talked about how Maud Hart Lovelace (the well-known author of the Betsy Tacy books) has inspired her voice as a writer. Lovelace was able to write stories that are timeless. Her characters and stories are still relevant today. Meg has tried to do the same with her books and characters.

As a writer, connecting to audiences and writing timeless stories is the ultimate achievement. As an editor, it’s a challenge to help writers achieve this goal, but it’s our job. It’s fun to imagine my children reading timeless classics and finding new classics, hopefully published by Stone Arch Books or Picture Window Books.:)

-Christianne Jones (Managing Editor, Capstone Fiction)

P.S. It must be written that Meg Cabot wore the most amazing dress. She looked like she could play the part of any one of her characters in a movie adaptation.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The New Yorker's chance at greatness

I got a sweet letter today from an almost-twelve-year-old girl--I'll call her Sally. Sally is a writer. She's working on a couple of stories right now--one of them is 65 notebook pages long, and the other is 18 typed pages. Her mom knows my mom, so my mom (as all relatives of people who work in publishing do) passed along my contact information. (Note to moms: I don't mind when it's a kid. Grown-ups, on the other hand, can be a little grumpy.)

Sally reminds me so much of myself as a kid. I was just telling my husband about the short story I submitted to the New Yorker when I was twelve. I don't remember if I included a cover letter, but every day for at least a few weeks, I checked the mail, expecting my acceptance letter and a huge check.

Though the story has been lost in the sands of time, I remember that it involved a tortured artist who painted mysterious dark paintings and made intricate pottery. When the artist finally walked into the ocean one day (I KNOW! So ridiculous) her husband found shards of pottery on the beach, each glazed with the colors of the sunset. (I hope it doesn't ruin your suspense when I ask if you can BELIEVE the New Yorker didn't want to publish this masterpiece!)

One day, while I was babysitting, my mom called to tell me I had an envelope in the mail with the New Yorker's logo on it. Honestly, I could barely make it through the rest of my babysitting job. I was daydreaming exactly how I'd tell my parents and teachers about my first published story. As soon as I got home, I ran to my room with the envelope. Inside: the first page of my story. A scrap of paper thanking me for my submission. And a post-it: "Enclose a SASE."

I'm not saying that Sally's stories are nearly as ridiculous, pretentious, and overwrought as that story was. I haven't read them yet, but I bet they're great. And I love telling kids about how publishing works and encouraging them to keep reading and writing. Because you know what I took away from my first rejection? They didn't treat me like a kid. They didn't ignore me or talk down to me. (And they sent me a letter even though I didn't know about self-addressed stamped envelopes.)

More soon--

Friday, July 17, 2009

Tiger Moth On the Air

This morning I was half listening to an NPR news article about moths outwitting bats. All of a sudden, my nephew Matt who is visiting from Wyoming said, “They’re talking about one of your books!”

Actually, the announcer was talking about Bertholdia trigiona, the tiger moth. The creature can confuse a chirping bat by creating its own mothy (mothish? mothesque?) rattles that interfere with the hunting bat’s echolocation. My nephew thought he was hearing about Tiger Moth, a costumed superhero created by author Aaron Reynolds for one of our Graphic Sparks series. Tiger Moth is an insect ninja who, with the estimable aid of his pillbug sidekick, Kung Pow, fights against the baddies of the bug world. Tiger also narrates his books in a funny, noir style, introducing young readers to mysteries, bugs, and a clever, cool vocabulary.

I thought it was great that my nephew made such a quick connection between what he had heard on the radio to one of the books he had read. It pays to have lots of fun books lying around for your relatives to pick up and enjoy.


Never let it be said that interns don't win.

Our intrepid, fearless, indefatigable intern, Ali, entered the Little Debbie Intern Hero contest and was featured today as one of their winners. (They called us a bookstore, but we won't split hairs with people sending us muffins.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

At last!

Yesterday, I talked about the pleasure of a blank page. Today, I sing the praises of the ink-soaked, printed, and bound page--the finished, hot-off-the-presses book.

There's probably no greater reward when working in book publishing (except, of course, hearing the reaction a kid has to the book) than receiving the finished books I've been working on for months or even years. The crisp feel of the spine opening for the first time, the warm, familiar smell of the inked pages. I've looked at the words and pictures a million times before, of course, but for the first time, it's pure enjoyment--I'm not looking for typos or making sure the art matches the text or critiquing the typeface used for the title or fixing bad breaks or deleting extra spaces between sentences. I'm just a reader, experiencing the book the same way all its future readers will experiencing it. I get to enjoy it. To turn the pages.

We're already deep into work on our Spring '10 list--my desk is littered with manuscripts and printed-out indesign layouts and sketches for illustrations. The books that are now being printed and sold, the Fall '09 list, seems pretty far away. And, we often complain, there's never a chance to stop and appreciate and look back on a season of completed books--except for a few minutes when the first finished copies land on my desk. Then, for a few minutes, I'm a reader again, not an editor. I work in book publishing for a lot of reasons--helping kids, spreading literacy, etc. It's easy to forget, immersed in the ins and outs of work, that the main reason I have this job is that I love books. The finished copies never fail to remind me.


(PS: This series, the Field Trip Mysteries, will be available on our website soon.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Appreciating the blank page

It's been pretty quiet around here lately, but not for lack of work. The designers are all swamped, getting covers ready to present for approval today. We're working on 80 new books for Spring '10, including seven or eight new series. So the design staff has been in a flurry of concepting and designing.

In the meantime, editorial work continues apace, at least for this editor. I'm actually done with the initial editorial work for the Spring '10 list, so I've been focusing on Fall '10. There are some REALLY fun books coming in our next few seasons. One series I'm especially excited about is a spin-off from our wildly successful Claudia Cristina Cortez series. The new set will focus on Claudia's best friend, Monica. Also written by Diana G. Gallagher, the new books follow Monica through middle school and introduce some new characters to the Pine Tree Middle School universe.

I've only edited two manuscripts so far, and the series designer and I have yet to meet to talk concepts for the interior. So right now, the books are really a blank slate--we've got the story, but the package could go any of a number of ways. It's exciting. I love working on an established series--it's like hanging out with old friends--but new series have so much potential, so much opportunity. I love the blank page (so to speak--the page is full of words!).

Now I'm going to get back to Monica. Enjoy your Wednesdays. I hope you all get your own blank pages today!

More soon!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Alan Bailey's Reflection Upon the Coretta Scott King Jury Experience

For more than 20 years, I have read and promoted winners of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, and after reading the last word of each extraordinary title, I close the book, look at the cover, and think to myself, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be on the Coretta Scott King (CSK) jury and choose the winning titles?” My opportunity of a lifetime came in January 2008 when I was notified by the chair of the CSK Book Awards Committee that I had been elected to serve on the 2009 jury. I was floored, but the feeling was amazing.

Amazement turned into excitement as the first titles to be considered for awards arrived in February. Weekly, one or more titles would arrive, and I was simply awed by the quality and array of works being published thanks to such talented writers and illustrators. As months passed and more and more books arrived (one week, I received twelve YA novels within three days) excitement morphed into concern. When am I going to find time to evaluate and review all of these books? How will the jury ever choose winners from this wide range of titles? The more I read, the more I realized how easy exceptional works of literature are distinguishable from “good reads.” By December, more than 100 titles had been reviewed and evaluated, and at the close of the nomination period, 40 titles remained on the jury’s consideration list for 2009 CSK Book Awards.

Closed jury deliberations began at 1 pm on Friday, January 23, 2009. As we introduced ourselves and shared our passions for children’s literature, feelings of amazement, excitement, and concern were joined by anxiety. Seven jurors with varied literary backgrounds from across the United States have fifteen hours to select three awards from forty titles – is it possible? Combine a well-organized and experienced jury chair, six knowledgeable jurors with a unified purpose, and a clear set of selection criteria, and the answer is yes! As each of the forty titles was brought to the table for discussion, we kept several essential questions in mind: Is the work outstanding? Does it inspire and educate readers? Will it honor the legacy of Mrs. Coretta Scott King? Titles receiving positive responses to all three of these questions remained on the table. Late Saturday night, when all discussions had ceased, final votes were cast and tabulated, and winning seals were affixed to book jackets, I went back to my hotel room exhausted, but confident that the best books nominated for the 2009 CSK awards had been selected.

The Youth Media Awards Press Conference was held on Monday, January 26th – what a rousing way to celebrate a year’s worth of comprehensive reading and fifteen hours of intense deliberations. The jury members called the award winning authors and illustrators to congratulate them prior to the international announcement. Each jury member was given the opportunity to call an award winner. Most were successful, but unfortunately, I was unable to reach my assigned winner – the telephone numbers listed on the contact sheet were either disconnected or temporarily out of service. Unbeknown to me, my moment of disbelief was caught on film.

The official press conference began at 7:45 am. As the procession, representing jury members of all the children’s award committees, was led down a staircase into the grand ballroom, the moment was reminiscent of Oscar night. The media, librarians, publishers, and others lined both sides of the staircase waving, applauding, taking pictures, and shaking hands, when possible. Many whispered, “Congratulations,” in my ear while others murmured, “Come on, tell me who won the award.”

Without a doubt, serving on the jury of the 2009 Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee was the highlight of my professional career, and it was hard to believe there were more thrills ahead. Award winning authors and illustrators were honored today, July 14, 2009, at the annual CSK Awards Breakfast during ALA Annual Conference in Chicago. In addition to recognizing the 2009 award recipients, CSK celebrates its 40th anniversary, a monumental milestone sure to be treasured by all attendees. To learn more about the awards breakfast or view highlights from the press conference, visit the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee website.

--Alan R. Bailey

Editor's note: Alan R. Bailey, Assistant Professor & Education Curriculum Librarian at J.Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, can be reached at baileya@ecu.edu. We are grateful to him for sharing his experiences with us.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Poetry Friday: I should like so much to play

This week's poem, by Robert Louis Stevenson, reminds me of being a kid--running around in the backyard, rollerskating with my friends, riding my bike "uptown" (I'm from a town of 700 people, so there wasn't much there). At night, we would fall into bed, smelling like sun. I never understood why my bedtime didn't change even though it was CLEARLY still daytime when the sun was up.

Bed in Summer

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day. [...]

Read the rest of the poem here.

This week's Poetry Friday is hosted at Alphabet Soup.

More next week!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

SAB + SIKIDS = awesome

Big news! We've signed a deal with Sports Illustrated Kids to publish graphic novels and chapter books. We're already at work on the first set of books, and it is shaping up to be action-packed and exciting. Here's the article on PW.com.

ALA events

Meet the Authors
Capstone Author Signings at ALA 2009!
Booth 2040

Meet graphic novelist and bestselling author Donald Lemke! He will be signing copies of his popular Stone Arch Books titles Zinc Alloy vs. Frankenstein and the 2008 Junior Library Guild Premier Selection Captured off Guard: The Attack on Pearl Harbor, in addition to Investigating the Scientific Method with Max Axiom from Captone Press. See him at the booth during the following signing sessions:
Saturday: 3:00 p.m.—4:00 p.mLink
Sunday: 11:00 a.m.—12:00 p.m.

Interested in engaging your reluctant readers? Meet Anastasia Suen, prolific blogger and author of more than 100 books for children. She will be signing Picture Window Books' The US Supreme Court (featured in the conference session Nonfiction Book Blast: Booktalks for Reluctant Readers) and the brand new Stone Arch Readers series Robot and Rico. Anastasia's available at the following times:
Sunday: 1:00 p.m.—2:00 p.m.
Monday: 11:00 a.m.—12:00 p.m.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

And Thanks for All the Monsters!

Author Martin Powell reminds me that this week is the anniversary of Ray Harryhausen’s birthday (June 29, 1920). Harryhausen was the creator of some of Hollywood’s first, best, and oddest special effects. He made all those creepy, Claymation creatures in such Grade-B classics as Jason and the Argonauts, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. Martin grew up on these movies, like I did, which partly explains his love of the horror genre, as well as his talent for fast-paced thrills and adventure. Martin was nominated for an Eisner Award for his Sherlock Holmes/Dracula page-turner, Scarlet in Gaslight. We were lucky enough to have him pen several graphic retellings for Stone Arch Books, including The Hound of the Baskervilles, Rumpelstiltskin, and Red Riding Hood. He knows scary! Thanks, Martin, for telling me about Harryhausen’s birthday. I remember watching his The 7th Voyage of Sinbad on TV as a kid. I always screamed for my mom to come and stand in front of the screen whenever the giant Cyclops came on. That monster scared the pudding out of me, but I couldn’t bring myself to turn off the TV. Boy, I haven’t thought about that movie for years. . .

Maybe I should call Mom.

"Let There Be Lightbulbs!"

Like most authors, I’m a packrat. I hoard old journals and notebooks, out-of-date atlases, out-of-print magazines (remember Omni?), crinkled newspaper clippings, and phrases I copied from books back when my handwriting was better. I came across this line the other day from Osbert Sitwell’s 1949 autobiographical Laughter in the Next Room. He describes the “permanent stain of blue or purple ink on the inner side of the middle finger of my right hand.” Up until the advent of the computer keyboard, this was the distinguishing mark of the professional writer. Our high-tech society has cleaned up our writing spaces and created another challenge: Lighting.

There are so many choices now -- backlighting, overhead lighting, side lighting, ambient, indirect. Here in the Stone Arch Books office, every editor and designer has his or her own individual preference. Here’s a small random sampling:

Sean (Billy Blaster): No overhead lighting. Has spillover from another editor’s light. Also, uses a retro looking desk lamp perched high above his keyboard.

Hilary (Robot & Rico): She inhabits the darkest cubicle! One lone 40-watt bulb burns in front of a 3-foot high face of Daniel Radcliffe from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Emily (Katie Woo): Lots of lighting! But she hates fluorescent lights, so the building manager removed one tube from each overhead fixture above her space. Their radiance is softened by the glow of a small lamp.

Brann (Zinc Alloy/DC Batman chapter books): Built-in desk lighting that he almost always turns off. Sometimes he turns on a standing lamp that is adorned with a golden Hello Kitty coin bank and an Indiana Jones-style fedora. Apparently, if you remove his lamp, poison darts shoot out of the walls.