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Tonight is Saturday night. Tonight I wrestled down a copse of dead trees standing between us and the neighbors. I’m sitting here with a hair full of bark and glasses full of sawdust. I’m not sure what kind of trees they were. They were tall, providing privacy; now they’re just branches sticking into the earth. So easy to push over that all I had to do was wedge myself between the fence and the trees and give it a good nudge. Boom. Timber! Then I sawed the branches with an electric reciprocating sawinto manageable pieces, until my hands tired and I feared I’d cut off my leg. Cadillac was impressed with my brute force and said I should have taken a photo, but my camera was upstairs and I was too dirty to traipse across the house.
Meanwhile, Cadillac is replacing the garbage disposal. He’s handy, that Cadillac. He comes from a line of men who work with their hands. His grandpa was a carpenter, who built many of the houses around here after he emigrated from England in the 1940s, after the war. His dad was an electrical/mechanical engineer, an executive at power companies, but still did and does as much of his own car/yard/house work as possible. When Cadillac’s dad was young, he and Cadillac’s grandpa built a boat in their backyard– a seaworthy vessel that, for all anybody knows, is still moored someplace. So Grandpa passed this do-it-yourself ethic to his son who passed it to his own sons. Thus, even if we had loads of money, Cadillac would likely do most of this kind of work himself, because he can and it’s almost anathema to him to let somebody else do it.
I was thinking about his grandpa. About how he fought in WWII and Cadillac’s dad didn’t see him for six years, except for a few periods of leave. About how he and his little family just chugged on over from England and made a new life here. About my paternal grandfather, how he was a coal miner who lost a leg and had seven children in a tiny two-bedroom townhouse. About how the struggles we face today pretty much pale in comparison to the struggles our grandparents had. About how lucky we are to live where we live, instead of being born in a country full of Ebola or constant civil war or drug cartels trying to kill us. How much of this life is out of our control, and how generous the universe was to my family, I think. I must be grateful for what I have.
So some people might think I’m having a crappy Saturday night, full of chores. I’m really not. I’m pleased to have trees I can chop down, because they’re MY trees now. I’m glad to have a reciprocating saw, instead of chopping the trees by hand like Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’m grateful to have a garbage disposal to install, because we can afford to buy a new garbage disposal without worrying about it.
This mantra of gratitude has come grudgingly to me in the past. Don’t we all think, Oh, I should be out doing THIS and THAT, I should be actively worrying about a thousand things that are actually not in my sphere of influence. I’m getting better at letting all that go. Perhaps this is how one can be happy.
After Cadillac’s done installing the disposal, we’ll sit on the couch in my office/grown-up hideaway and drink gin and lemonades and maybe watch a movie on Netflix. And then I’ll go to bed, my muscles sore for once from actual labor, and hope that I sleep soundly.
While I was at BlogHer doing the Path to Publishing workshop– in the MIDDLE of Path to Publishing, actually– it came to my attention that neither I nor my co-leader knew how to write a query for memoir. I thought it was nonfiction and therefore out of my area, so I hadn’t even looked it up.
I tried to find out on ze Internets, and got conflicting results. No one concrete answer.
In nonfiction, you have a proposal, sample chapters and perhaps an outline. And some articles said that’s how you sell a memoir, too. But other (also reliable) sources said memoir is sold like fiction and you need the whole thing.
Thus I sent out the Batsignal on Facebook, and emailed my agent, Dan Lazar, to ask.
This is what I found out:
- It all depends.
Is that concrete enough for you?
My friend Alison Singh Gee, author of the memoir Where the Peacocks Sing responded first.
Alison wrote a proposal, which was 100 pages long, and didn’t have a full manuscript. But she had a solid, long career as a journalist/columnist.
Alison also said, “My friend Wendy Lawless initially tried to sell Chanel Bonfire in proposal form, but she says she didn’t yet have an alluring enough platform. She ended up writing the entire book, and sold it that way.”
Then Dan responded with this:
“If you’re a new author, a full manuscript helps very, very much — but honestly it’s not essential. That’s why you’re getting mixed opinions. If an author has a great title, and a great voice, and a great concept… usually a few sample chapters and a strong outline will do the trick. Most of the memoirs I’ve sold have been on proposal.”
So, to sum up:
- The best thing to do is write the whole memoir.
- If you haven’t written the whole memoir, write a few sample chapters and an outline and try to sell it that way.
- If that doesn’t work, write the whole manuscript.
There you have it.
That’s the funny thing about advising people on how to get published. You talk to ten different authors and it worked differently for each. All you can offer are guideposts, what worked for you, and hope it helps.
I went to Comic-Con this year. If you’re in publishing or another sort of media pro, you can apply for a free pro pass. I know! This year, my publisher submitted me to be considered for a panel, but I didn’t get one. They were nice and invited me to the Penguin party, but it was on Thursday! When I was still at BlogHer! The humanity! I know, embarrassment of riches, the likes of which I might not ever see again.
This was my third time and my first time with Cadillac. Who is kind of a closet geek. That is, he lurves him some Star Wars, he is obsessed with Harry Potter, his favorite anime is Vampire Hunter D (he’s been a huge unwavering vampire supporter since before Anne Rice, even during the great Vampire Drought between Rice and Twilight). But from looking at him, could you really tell? Nope. It all adds to his complexity and mystery. Ha.
The last two times were with the two older kids, which was a stress filled event for me. I am claustrophobic and don’t like crowds all that much and I’d rather just let somebody lead me around. The boy was ready to leave in 15 minutes while Eldest could have stayed all day. So, having Cadillac there was great. He pushes through crowds (people kind of bounce off him) and I just hold onto his back and jog behind. Also, he carried all our stuff. Also, he was amenable to whatever I wanted to do while suggesting things and looking at the map.
And the air conditioning worked a hell of a lot better than it did two years ago.
We went on Saturday morning, which at first wasn’t all that crowded because people were hungover from the night before and not coming in.
Still not that crowded.
My brother was also in town for Con, as he’s been going since the 90s, and he told us some tips.
(The link above goes to a pic of my brother. He made Entertainment Weekly! He looks rather trustworthy with that mustache.)
He told us to take the trolley (totally correct– driving down there is mayhem). And also: If you want to get autographs or buy things at special kiosks, like the Mattel kiosk, you have to go to a drawing at like 9 am. Then if you draw correctly, you can get in line.
We didn’t much care about that, so we decided to walk around and see what we could see.
First we saw this statue of Boba Fett (which my eldest just told me was the wrong color for Boba Fett, what do you think?) Cadillac’s fave Star Wars character! Here they are getting ready to go on a romantic picnic and walk along the beach.
Then we saw a big old Hobbit display, where this Smaug slowly opened and closed his eyes. Basically Comic-Con is like walking through Universal Studios or the equivalent.
They also had different experiences you could…experience. Like a lab thing from Bates Motel. Or The Walking Dead experience, which we didn’t wait in line for.
Our kids gave us a list of souvenirs to find. This was a surprisingly hard task, especially for our son, who wanted a “pillow shaped like Bedsmith“, a character my brother assured us was super duper obscure.
So we wandered up to the Pro Lounge. That’s right. While all you peons have to squat on the floor and get yelled at for leaning against walls, us Important Folk get to go into the Pro Lounge and have foot massages and brandy.
Actually it was lemonade and coffee. Or tea.
The coffee was really really good though.
Then it was lunchtime, and we ventured out.
Those crazy people with the REPENT signs were all there with bullhorns telling us we are all going to die. Um, duh?
“Heretics!” I shouted at them. I’m sure they would have been aghast, had they not been so glassy-eyed.
I used Yelp to find a sushi place. Which we found with a sign saying WELCOME COMIC-CON!And the hours (should be open).
But it was closed.
Then we found another sushi place (being in the mood) where they had a menu with like 4 rolls on it. None of which were my favorites. The lady said they were a pop-up just open for the Con. I did not like that.
Then we went to a Mexican place, which had no air. I immediately stuck grossly to the seat so we left.
Finally, we ended up at Seersucker, where we sat at the bar. They gave us the brunch menus though it was after 1.
Before we were done eating, the bartender would tell the other patrons they were out of sandwiches.
Out of sandwiches. Can you believe it?
Lots of different shows/films decorated the buildings. Here’s one for the show Ascension.
Then we headed to stand in line for the Grimm panel. It’s in Hall 20, which hosts various panels all day. They don’t clear the room so people get in early and sit. Sit. Sit. Waiting for Vampire Diaries.
We were almost in and then we had to be stopped just before this hallway, across from the ballroom.
Finally we got in and found the first available seats next to a family of wildebeests who were waiting for…you guessed it…Vampire Diaries. Which meant that they just freakin yakked it up.
We were sitting quite far back, so we mostly watched the monitors. The program said they’d be showing a preview of the new season, but alas, they did not. Cadillac said the only actor he liked was the guy who plays Monroe and the rest were funny. Like not funny ha ha. “Having seen who they are in real life will greatly diminish my enjoyment of the show, ” he said. (Actually, he intoned. You know Cadillac. And yes, he talks like that).
After that panel, we stayed for Vampire Diaries simply so we could talk through the whole thing and ruin it for those people. (not really. I thought about it and Cadillac said he was game, but I didn’t care that much).
Then we were trudging through the sales floor looking for Bedsmith again when the backdoor opened and men in suits shouted, “Make way! Two minutes! Back up, please!”
And Josh Brolin, Jessica Alba and Rosario Dawson (and Frank Miller, presumably, but who cares about him? He’s just a writer and director and artist. Totally boring!) came through for their Sin City panel.
I whipped out my phone and managed to snag this somewhat blurry pic. Alba is holding up her phone taking a picture of the crowd. Dawson’s behind her.
They were tiny, like actors tend to be. Small like pro ballerinas. Alba is very very pretty. I didn’t recognize Dawson until later.
Brolin has a huge rectangular head that looks like somebody chiseled it out of a rock. Also a good feature for an actor.
“Who are those people?” Cadillac asked.
I told him. “You’ve seen stuff they were in.”
I told him Sin City and he said, “Wasn’t Mickey Rourke in that? Was he there?”
We are going to be such annoying old people, he and I.
Then, up on a pedestal, we saw the girl from The Descendants and that hot guy whom Mary killed with her lethal lady-bits in Downton Abbey (seriously, every man she sleeps with dies. Her new suitors ought to be concerned). I actually looked up and just noticed Theo James and thought, “That’s that really hot guy from Downton Abbey! Who’s that girl?” because Woodley is a really great actress but looks like a regular girl. Which is refreshing, because all the actresses look the same these days. But she looked really tired. Who knows what they had her doing. I couldn’t get a pic because people (guards) were moving us along.
Who else did we see? The cast of Constantine, outside. And possibly Harry Potter. And a cosplay convention goer lady who was pretty much nekkid except for some cyborg pasties over her breasts, and cyborg hands. She had almost as big of a crowd as Divergent gawking around her.
This was just a banner week in terms of annoyances. It started off on Sunday with a fire that torched the mountain across the way from our house. I smelled smoke and asked my family, “Does anyone else smell that?”
“Nope,” they said. “It’s your imagination.”
I looked out the window later and saw smoke starting to go up and the first thing (I know it’s bad) the FIRST thing I yelled was, “I TOLD you I smelled smoke! The hill is on fire!” The theory is that someone threw his cigarette out their car window, a theory borne out by the fact that a bunch of people saw a dude throw his cigarette out the window, and the subsequent fire.
I just hate that. Responsible smokers clean up their butts. They don’t leave them on the ground or throw them out the window into the pile of dry tinder known as San Diego from April through October. And the next day I saw someone throw a cigarette out the window near the mountain and I swear I came thisclose to ramming them with my trusty mini-van (So THAT’S how your bumper got knocked ajar, eh, Margaret?)
Then on Wednesday night, I was asleep when another smell awoke me. It was chokingly awful, like a mixture of rotted onions, eggs, rancid pot, and a paint thinner all thrown together.
I went downstairs to see Cadillac washing his hands. “I let him out and he got into something. He’s foaming at the mouth.”
“It’s skunk. Can’t you smell that?”
So I fired up the Internet and found the skunk potion: baking soda and hydrogen peroxide and water mixed together, and Cadillac, cursing like the dad from A Christmas Story, turned on the bathtub.
I opened all the windows and blasted the A/C and oh mah goodness. It still stank. I could taste it. It permeated the air.
It took a long time to go back to sleep.
The next morning I was totally knackered (British word, right? I like it! We need to use it here and it begins RIGHT NOW) and I had to take los animales to the vet for their shots. Gatsby still stank. Then I had the brilliant idea to just drop him off at the groomer’s, and after calling around found one that had time to take him and do the de-skunk treatment. It worked on about 80% of the stench. Four days later, he still stinks quite a bit.
Yesterday evening, Cadillac opened the garage door. We have an extra fridge in there, and a litter box for Richard Parker, that semi-feral cat. We leave the door cracked for him. The skunk was using the litterbox. It ran under the car and peered up at Cadillac, unperturbed mostly. We theorize it had appeared for what we call hard rubbin’s. This is the firm petting that our animals get from Cadillac on their backs. He kind of, I don’t know, smashes their backs down, but the animals love it. Like, if I pet an animal they will abandon me to go get petted by him. I am a poor substitute in terms of pettings.
Now we have to trap Richard Parker in the garage at night.
On Friday, Cadillac had to go to Pasadena to do an audit for work and he took us with him to go to the Huntington Library afterwards. It was all going super until I walked into the gardens and felt like I needed to vomit, cry, and lie down all at the same time.
On the way up we made a pit stop at the same Carl’s Junior we’d stopped at on the way to Tahoe, where I got the same food without incident. I was hungry and had only eaten a small bowl of almond milk and puffed rice. I got a breakfast that had scrambled eggs (whole eggs + citric acid!) and a biscuit and tater tots and sausage and bacon. I only ate the eggs and gave the rest to my son.
I think the eggs were bad. Approximately 3.5 hours later, the GI distress hit.
Not to get into many gory details, but I had to stay near a bathroom. The guards were looking at me sideways, no doubt thinking, What is this lady up to? Is she doing drugs in the Huntington Library bathrooms? but I was prepared to tell them the truth.
Cadillac took the kids to a couple of the gardens and we looked at the library and then I said I needed to go. We stopped and got Tums and I basically slept the whole way home, whereupon it really hit me.
See, that’s always my biggest fear when I’m traveling. Getting sick like that and having to ride 2 or 3 hours back in a car. And what if I chaperon something and I get sick? What happens to the kids? How the fuck would I be able to drive home? I would never make it. Is it just me or when you have a vague anxiety about something that finally HAPPENS, do you feel a sense of triumph, like the I TOLD YOU SO phenomenon? That’s probably a personality defect.
So that was my trifecta of sorta bad things.
Of course it could have been worse. I could have been hit with a GI plague so bad the car would have been totaled. The fire could have jumped the road and burned down our subdivision. The skunk could have sprayed me in the face instead of the dog, who was valiantly protecting the homestead. And of course there are far worse tragedies happening in the world right now which I will not mention because I figure you don’t come here for that kind of talk, right?
Hopefully, this week will be better. BlogHer and Comic-Con!
So this is kind of interesting.
I sometimes use a site called YouBeauty, and one day they emailed me and said I’d signed up to be a beauty panelist (or something like that, I truly don’t remember, I think I signed up for it a few years back) and would I like to try a sample of something called Resveratrol?
Sure, I said.
I tried it and it actually worked very well, so well that I wrote a review of it. It actually worked so well that I regretted it working so well– good skin hydration, fewer lines– because the stuff is kind of expensive.
Then the SkinCeuticals folks saw that review and asked if they could edit it for use in an email blast.
Thus, my spokesmodel career was born! Er, not really. But they did send me a couple of samples.
(And they didn’t ask me to promote it on my website or anything like that.)
The Absolutely Definitive Answer to How Many Children You Should Have
Have you been wondering how many kids you should have?
Have you read article after article telling you you’re selfish if you have one, you’re crazy if you have more than two?
Have you been spotting endless Dear Abbys and Dear Prudences asking HOW MANY SHOULD I HAVE? and then letting the whole world weigh in?
Have you just been hopin’ and waitin’ and wishin’ that somebody would just TELL YOU WHAT TO DO?
Here’s the answer.
It’s nobody’s damn business but yours and the person with whom you’re raising the kid.
I hear you. Dilloway, you low-down dirty double-crosser. That title was nothing but click bait! Something to get you on this page! That’s no real answer! WHERE ARE MY PARENT VS NON PARENT WARS? THE LONELY ONLYS VS ONE AND DONES? All the other manufactured debates about parenting invented to get your eyeballs onto pages and to whip up froths of parenting controversy?
Okay. Let’s talk about this a bit more.
How about this?
SHOULD I EVEN HAVE A KID?
Are you a selfish person if you don’t personally experience the joys of parenthood?
There are already too many people in this world who have kids they don’t have any interest in raising. Too many who thought, “Eh, I SHOULD have a kid b/c that’s sort of the most socially acceptable thing to do” but they really don’t want one.
However, if you don’t want a kid, then you shouldn’t be joined with someone who does. And vice-versa. That’s just not fair. If your partner says, “I never want kids,” then don’t think, “Okay, I’m going to marry this person anyway,and then change him!” NONONO. Give me your best friend’s phone number, so I can tell him or her to slap you. Lovingly.
I HAVE ONE KID, SHOULD I HAVE ANOTHER?
Having had 1 kid, do people always ask you when you’re having another? And you’re considering it, just because you think you *ought* to? Do people say stuff like, “Oh, only children are always spoiled” or “so lonely” blahblahblah?
Don’t do it.
Only have two if you really want two. If you can sustain, emotionally and financially, two.
I know lots of only children who are perfectly fine.
I HAVE TWO KIDS, SHOULD I HAVE THREE?
That is a discussion not for me but for you and your partner.
After you have two kids and they’re out of diapers, do you really want to get up all over again and do all the diapering/preschool/etc AGAIN?
Are you and your partner strong enough to take on three? Do you have enough SUPPORT? Do you have enough money?
The reason we had her is because we were always feeling like there was someone missing. I’d set the table and look at seat three and wonder, do I need to set three places? No?
I HAVE THREE KIDS, SHOULD I HAVE FOUR?
Cadillac, the youngest of four, wanted four originally. “That way we can have even numbers at Disneyland,” he said. Totally legit reason for having another human being, right? Well, that got kiboshed quickly. Me+pregnancy=not pretty. I think I might honestly die if I got pregnant again. Like, literally for real. Not just metaphorically. ]
Plus, the third did us the f in, in a big way. Like, you feel all energetic and stuff with two, and you’re in a groove, and handling things, and then THREE hits, and it’s like being flattened by a boulder. I have heard the same from others. Obviously not from everyone, because I know families with four and six and eight children who seem to have it more together.
I HAVE FOUR KIDS, SHOULD I HAVE MORE?
Again, beyond my experience. Therefore, it’s up to you. You can have as many as you like, provided that you don’t hire them out for reality TV. I think that’s a pretty good clause in the unspoken parenting contract.
The bottom line is, there are pros and cons to everything. An only child might have more chances to do more stuff because he has more resources spent on him, but a kid with siblings has different experiences. No one answer is right for every single family or person on earth.
Do what’s right for you, and don’t pay any attention to anyone who tells you how many kids you “should” have.
After I had Little Girl, I ran into a woman I knew at a preschool event. She looked at my kids and shook her head and said, “Three? You’re crazy, girl.” And let me tell you, that was an incredibly helpful statement to make after, you know, I ALREADY HAD THREE KIDS.
So the final piece of advice: if you think X should have Y number of kids, please. Keep your mouth shut about it.
The school year’s come to another close, and I I was going to use this post to tell you Important and Fun Summer Activities to do with your kids, but instead I’m going to gloat. I have no at-home summer activities to do with your kids. I don’t care about summer organization anymore. Every single craft kit and Pinterest summer fun idea has either gone unused or been done in half the time it’s supposed to take. So why bother?
I’m not even wringing my hands at how little time my kids spend outside and how I can’t just push them out the door and tell them to come back at dusk. You know why? It’d be useless. There’s nobody to play with around here, so what are they supposed to do? That’s simply the reality of the situation.
So. This is my summer activity list:
Give kids a list of chores to do every day.Which includes reading though that doesn’t really count as a chore anymore than “eat chocolate” counts as a chore for me.
My kids are now 15, 12, and 8. Which means they should be able to do everything except drive places. Cook, clean, scrub the pool, walk the dog, everything. In fact, maybe I should just leave for the summer and let them Lord of the Flies it out.
I have to say I’m not dreading summer this time around. Could be because Little Girl is almost 9, which means she’s more like a tween, practically, which means she likes to sleep the hell in. Woot! She sleeps until 9, and the other kids just tend to sleep as long as possible, which is good for my work because if I get up early, I can get a lot done. But it’s bad for my evenings because the darn kids are hanging around preventing us from watching our shows. I know. So sad.
I’ve also signed 2/3 kids up for a couple weeks of day camp AND we have a vacation already set up. It’s 100% unheard of. We’re going away with Cadillac’s extended family, minus a few, one of whom is house/dog sitting for us. And after all that’s over, it’ll be time to get ready for back to school, almost.
In the old days, Cadillac’s extended family (brothers and their kids and his parents) would go camping at Lee Vining. They’d take a motorhome and whatever extra kid friends were hanging around and go up there for a week or two.
But Cadillac’s the youngest of his siblings, and their kids are generally a decade older than our kids, so my kids never got to do that kind of family vacation because his parents were over it by the time our kids showed up. So this will be a good way for our kids to make some neat familial memories with hopefully some shenanigans involved. Sure, there will be Grandma telling us we’re mortal sinners because we don’t go to Mass every week (which, as you can imagine, is a HIGHLY effective method of getting us to go) but at least we don’t have to camp like the old days. We’re renting a house. (Yessss!) There are advantages to missing out on some things and waiting for others.
My parents always described me as being stubborn, and it’s true. While this might not be such a desirable character trait when trying to get me to like peas (which I will never like), sometimes this works in my favor.
Because I generally don’t like to talk about things before they are solidified, few people know that for the past couple of years, in between adult projects, I’ve been working on a middle-grade fantasy novel that’s a retelling of a Japanese fairy tale, MOMOTARO. I’d always loved the tale and I’d never read a fully realized version of it. I wanted to set it in contemporary times and introduce the story to English-speaking readers.
It went through countless drafts before I got it right. It was entirely possible at one point that I’d never get it right.
Fantasy, unlike what some people think (like this woman who scoffed that Harry Potter isn’t stimulating enough for adult minds), is an extremely difficult genre. You have to create a whole world with different rules than ours– and those rules have to make sense all the way through. The adventure needs to start pretty soon, but not too soon. The way the characters get into the world must be believable. The main character has to be fighting some kind of inner struggle, too, and all the characters have to pop (which isn’t really different than other genres).
I stopped working on it for long periods. I cut out many characters. I restarted the whole story from ground zero three different times. I wrote it from third person and from first. It was never quite right.
But one day, I had a breakthrough.
Maybe it was when I decided to go for broke and not listen to my inner adult anymore. To put in the things that me the mother might have thought were a little shocking or rude or whatnot but that kids adored. (In other words, I had a LOT of fun).
Then I test drove it in my daughter’s 3rd grade class. The kids loved it. I mean, they responded so raptly and with such laughter that I got goosebumps.
The best compliment I got was from one little boy who said that one passage, “sounds like poetry.”
Thus bolstered, I sent it off to my agent, who is very picky. He loved it and sent it out immediately. After my agent sent it off to the publishers, I sat around, chewing my nails. At that point, there’s zero you can do except wait.
My main character, Xander, is half Japanese (of course, like me) and I have this whole big world and plan imagined for him. I was a little bit afraid that nobody would buy it– I’d heard through the grapevine that publishers say that Asian characters (especially boy ones) simply don’t sell well. (Some of you might be following the #weneeddiversebooks movement, which asks publishers to provide more multicultural children’s books. Here’s an infographic showing how the number of children’s books with by/and/or/about people of color hasn’t changed over the past 20 years).
Well. My boy Xander is going to prove everybody wrong. I’m beyond happy to announce that MOMOTARO has sold to Disney-Hyperion in a two-book deal to editorial director Stephanie Lurie. Stephanie edits Rick Riordan and others.
We spoke on the phone and it was finding the one stranger at the party who laughs at all your jokes and feels like an old friend after you’ve been standing in the corner all evening. There’s no better feeling for a writer. What you’ve been trying to do has, at last, been understood.
Here’s some of what she said about my book:
As you might imagine, I have received several Percy Jackson-esque submissions over the last few years. They always pale in comparison to Rick’s writing due to slow pacing, lame attempts at humor, a generic main character, and a lack of heart. Margaret Dilloway’s MOMOTARO was a refreshing change.
And then I collapsed into a puddle.
I have to admit, Disney-Hyperion was my first choice. They have a small list (maybe 4-5 middle grade books per season as opposed to 20) but the power of Disney. It will have illustrations! It will have a second book! (I already had ideas for the second book and talked to Stephanie about them during our conversation).
Now that my heart has started pumping again, let me share the Publisher’s Lunch announcement:
Author of How to Be An American Housewife Margaret Dilloway’s middle grade debut, MOMOTARO, about a half-Japanese kid whose father disappears in an unexpected storm, and who discovers he’s the latest in a line of Momotaro heroes when he embarks on an epic journey to find him, along with his best friend and his dog, with only a comic as a guide against a maze of of obstacles (acid waterfalls, angry giants, volcanoes, and more!), to Stephanie Lurie at Disney-Hyperion, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, by Daniel Lazar at Writers House (World English).
And that is where being stubborn gets you.
This is one of the most frequent how-do-I-write questions I get. You’re working on The Great American Novel you’ve harbored in your heart. Should you change it to fit into some genre?
I’m probably not the best person to ask.
With my first two novels, I just had these very specific stories to tell. When I was done, I was told they fit into Women’s Fiction. Mostly.
I’m also told my books cross genre into “Literary.” I’m not entirely sure what “Literary” (yeah, always with a capital L) means, except that it gets more respect than “genre” writing. I think literary novels focus more on character than on plot. And it might include certain stylizations of language, in my case, sentence fragments (sorry, English teachers!). Also, my novels tend to be a bit “grittier” than standard (that means my women are kind of “difficult”, a whole ‘nother story). In fact, it was voted Best Women’s Fiction by the Literary Tastes Committee (ALA) because it was more literary(a librarian confided!).
Sometimes “genre fiction” is used pejoratively, but I don’t think you should think of it like that. Genres are umbrellas under which your books fit. It’s so your books can be properly shelved at the library and bookstore. So a customer coming into a store, looking for a thriller with lots of blood and guts, does not have to wander for 10000 hours to find that.
A librarian at the ALA convention last year, where I spoke about crossing genres, said that you simply can’t have lots of subgenres. There would be too many. Can you imagine someone coming in and saying, “I’d like a women’s fiction book with an irascible lead that doesn’t focus too much on romance and has rose growing in it” and the librarian busting out, “Oh, you want the Womens’ Fiction/Difficult Leads/Gardening section.” It just gets to be too much.
I think many books lean more toward one kind of fiction than another. And those genres do have conventions that are normally followed. For example, Women’s Fiction usually has some kind of romantic element, and most of the POVs are from women (though you can have male). It’s more about the woman’s journey to overcome some crisis (that she saves herself from), rather than her racing against the clock to save the President. If your “women’s fiction” focuses on saving the Prez, then you probably have more of a thriller on your hands. Could you have a women’s fiction thriller? I think so– the focus would simply be on the heroine’s inner journey rather than the external plot.
So, if you’re not sure about where your book will fit, you should write the book you want to write, then see where it might lean. It might cross genre a bit, like mine do, but still be shelved under its primary genre.
Of course, if you KNOW what genre you want your book to be, you should observe its conventions. To do this, read a lot of books in the genre.
And then make it your own.